Abandonment is an extremely difficult problem and one that affects the entire family system. Whether it be the biological parent abandoning a child, or a non-custodial mother giving up custody for adoption, the impact is felt throughout the entire extended family. Psychological abandonment changes a family’s relationships, rituals and traditions and even the subsystems and interactions that make up the family unit.
Children who have been abandoned often struggle with feelings of rage, guilt, fear and depression. They may feel like they have done something wrong to cause their parents to leave them, or that they are not worthy of love. Many of them also have a hard time trusting or connecting with other people, especially adults. The trauma of abandonment can have lasting effects, including difficulties in their schoolwork, relationships and daily functioning.
A common cause of child abandonment is economic problems that force families to break up. In such cases, the children are not cared for by either parent, and they are left alone in their homes or sent to welfare facilities. In some cultures, the abandonment of children is an important social taboo. In other cases, cultural or religious beliefs lead to children being left with relatives, friends or strangers.
The impact of abandonment can be seen in the lives of all kinds of children and teens. It can occur when a biological parent leaves their child with grandparents, a sibling or an aunt or uncle; when a mother or father travels for work and hands their care over to someone else, like a day-care worker or nanny; when a teenager’s parents separate; or when a parent goes to military service abroad and does not contact their children.
Some parents who abandon their children may later regret it, but they cannot be forced to take back the rights to their children by any court of law. Other parents may be unable to meet the emotional needs of their kids due to mental illness, and may therefore choose to abandon them.
While a lack of finances, resources or support can contribute to the decision to abandon a child, some of these same issues can be overcome through adoption and foster care. Many countries have Safe Haven laws, where a mother can hand her newborn over to authorities without being charged with abandonment. In such cases, the baby is usually placed with an adoption agency for permanent placement.
Abandonment can also occur when a non-custodial parent gives up their parental rights to the state for any reason, such as involuntary psychiatric treatment, divorce or death of a spouse. This can have a profoundly negative effect on the child’s development and psychological well-being, and may also cause long-term problems with his or her self-esteem and sense of worth. It may also have long-lasting psychiatric effects, such as depression and anxiety disorders. This can have an adverse effect on a person’s ability to form relationships and function in society, and may be the cause of other psychiatric problems, such as substance abuse.