Absent fathers linked to juvenile crime

Research shows young people are more likely to become criminals if their father is absent from their life – with boys being affected more than girls.


According to a study commissioned by drug charity Addaction, fatherless young people are 76.4% more at risk of partaking in criminal activity, with many also resorting to self-harm due to a sense of abandonment.

“If the father walks away from the child and becomes absent that way, the child, especially boys, builds up anger and can often become violent.” Dr Martin Glynn

The study, entitled ‘The Dad and Me Report’, involved 90 young people aged between 15-16 being interviewed in Addaction centres across the UK and found that those with absent fathers sought affection from gang membership as a way to fill the void.

There are around 130,000 absent fathers in Britain

There are around 130,000 absent fathers in Britain

The report also found that young people are 69.1% more likely to take drugs as a consequence, in an attempt ‘to numb the pain’. Its author, Dr Martin Glynn, believes that the circumstances behind a fathers absence is what determines how a young person will react.

“I met people whose father had been murdered, [had been] in prisons and some whose father died suddenly. But it was clear from the research that if the person lost their father to tragic circumstances and they were particularly close, there was no support services to manage the trauma.

“So what happens is people would suppress their anxiety with alcohol and drug misuse. On the other hand, if the father walks away from the child and becomes absent that way, the child, especially boys, builds up anger and can often become violent.”

Glynn, a criminologist from Birmingham, has also worked with offenders in prisons such as Swinfen Hall and Winson Green. Although he thinks there is a correlation between crime and absent fathers, Glynn suggests that a life of criminality can often stem from the fear of not being able to support their own child.

Dr Martin Glynn - Dad & Me Researcher

Dr Martin Glynn – Dad & Me Researcher

“Some who grow up without a dad, they remember being poor and think when I have kids of my own I don’t want to raise my children in the same way I was raised. But they don’t have the available means to buy what they want. So what do they do? Crime becomes an option.

“But what happens is, they don’t look at the consequences that if you get caught, you will go to prison [and] then you are then separated from your child.


“So you can give your child things but they don’t inherit the father bond and once that disconnects, the cycle starts again.”

Dr Glynn on the affects that father absence has on boys and girls.



The latest results come after Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy suggested absent fathers were the key cause of knife crime in Britain. After visiting Feltham Young Offenders Institute, he found out most of the offenders did not have access to their fathers.

“Many young offenders come from deprived backgrounds where father absence is rife and in most instances they grow up without that figure that can provide discipline.

“[And] because of this, it often leads to them getting involved in gangs and subsequently carrying knifes.”

Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Dr Jenny Taylor believes that a father being present in a child’s life does not mean they are less likely to get into crime. Taylor, who carried out a study on the issue in 2001, says the role of the dad can be the detrimental factor that leads to criminality.

“People tend to look at absent fathers as the cause of crime but don’t identify the dad’s that stick around as having a similar influence. The issue of role models is so important in the development of young children.

“If the dad doesn’t take an interest in a child’s life or doesn’t play an active role, they may as well be regarded as absent and therefore a child is just as likely to do crime when they grow up.

Dr Taylor’s research analysed 68 boys, aged between 12-16, from deprived areas of South London. The boys were split into two groups of the ‘good boys’, who caused teachers no problems and had no criminal convictions, and the ‘bad boys’, who were persistent offenders.

The data found that almost 80% of the ‘good boys’ spoke of having a close relationship with their biological father,  whereas 45% of the ‘bad boys’ did not have anyone they regarded as a father.

“As for the 45% of the boys who said no, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a dad but those boys didn’t feel like they had one. The dad wasn’t playing an active role and that was decisive.”

Dr Taylor on the importance of fathers for young boys:

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