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Behind Closed Doors: Exploring the Influence of Father-Son Relationships on the Mental Health of Young Boys

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The study which examined 87 Form Three and Four boys in selected schools in Kiambu County revealed that lack of fatherly love for the adolescents’ increases the likelihood of adolescent depression.

While depression has been reported to be on the increase among adolescents in high schools at 43 per cent the study shows that more boys are falling into depression due to strained relationship with their fathers.

The research done by Child and Adolescent Psychologists, Venoranda Rebecca Kuboka and Ciriaka Gitonga in October last year suggests that 34. 5 per cent of adolescent boys had depressive symptoms.

According to the findings, adolescents are bound to perceive love from their parents as providence and not emotional attachment, care, affection or support. 

“The absence of warmth, care and affection especially from fathers is sufficient to generate emotional consequences and when fathers lack to reciprocate the love then the boys find themselves unworthy and not deserving,” Kuboka said. 

HIGH HANDEDNESS

The findings, presented during the 8th KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health Conference this week, states that while fathers have been cultured to be disciplinarians as their primary role, their high handedness may have a negative impact on boys.

“It appears that the adolescent boys in the study hardly receive praise and compliments from their fathers or fathers use unkind words towards the boys. Additionally, 43.7 per cent mentioned that their fathers find in them a lot of mistakes,” Kuboka said. 

The boys in the study did exhibit “depressive symptoms” even though they did not experience crying spells. “The study clearly shows that boys have high levels of depression, which is exhibited by irritability, poor sleeping patterns, and engagement in antisocial and aggressive activities, low concentration levels, sadness and lack of drive to engage in daily activities,” she said.

A number of studies conducted in the world and in Kenya associate depression with lack of paternal acceptance, no emotional connection, parenting styles and low levels of self-esteem.

Most studies on depression among young adults show that when the father’s involvement increased, depression among adolescents would be lower and when involvement was low the levels of depression would be higher.

Studies show that adolescent boys with depression are likely to engage in antisocial behaviour and exhibit high levels of aggression. This research, which had respondents aged between 16 and 20 did not delve into the types of antisocial behaviour the boys may have engaged in.

A separate study by the County Government of Kiambu in collaboration with the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) last year on alcoholism indicates that 15 per cent of residents of Kiambu County aged 15 to 65 years are dependent on alcohol, tobacco and bhang. The survey shows that alcoholism and drug abuse are still rampant and are on the rise.

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