7 Signs of an Unhealthy Father-Son Relationship

Hey Optimist Minds!

Being the male parent, fathers serve as important role models for their sons. However, in traditional parenting, fathers don’t have much emotional involvement in their son’s life. As a result, sons miss out on the full potential of this bond.

Studies show that many adult men report a sense of loss or grief when considering their own father-son relationship. Research also reveals that behavioural and emotional problems experienced by adolescent boys are strongly associated with strained father-son relationships.

This video will describe the signs to help you recognise whether your relationship with your father is unhealthy. Bear in mind that this information is only a self-assessment. For an official evaluation, it’s best to consult a licensed professional.

Here are seven signs of an unhealthy father-son relationship.


He is unavailable.

Is your father too busy to show up when you need him around? Does it feel like you can’t go to him for emotional support?

Most fathers aren’t aware that they need to be actively present in their kid’s lives. Sons benefit from such a presence because they see that it’s okay for a male to show affection and concern. Subsequently, they don’t grow up thinking they’re weak for having a soft side.

Conventionally, fathers are excused from the responsibilities of bringing up children. They are only expected to provide and protect. Sadly, this is not sufficient as children must have a rich emotional bond with both parents for healthy development.


His addiction makes the home environment unsafe.

Does your dad expose you to toxic substances because of his drug habit? Does he often come home intoxicated and then create a scene?

It can be tough to live in a home where getting high is a priority over safety. Addiction, in the context of father-son relationships, causes the child to internalise communications and problems. You grow up thinking it’s your fault your life is this way. Consequently, your self-esteem and self-worth levels decrease significantly.


He invalidates your feelings.

Are you uncomfortable crying in front of your dad? Are you afraid that he’ll ask you to suck it up and be a man?

Most fathers try to suppress their son’s feelings because their dads did the same to them. Societal norms make it challenging for men to feel safe showing their vulnerabilities. Almost as if having emotions makes them less of a man.

In unhealthy father-son relationships, the only acceptable emotions are anger, pride, and amusement. Any other feeling is mocked, so you prefer to keep it to yourself.


He pushes you to do things that make you unhappy.

In unhealthy relationships, pride matters more than peace and happiness. Maybe you’re stuck in a career line only because it makes your dad proud. It could also be a sport or hobby that you showed natural talent in. 

At some point, you may have even enjoyed doing it. But perhaps the pressure of your dad’s expectations has killed the joy of it. This work only makes you miserable now, but you carry on doing it because your dad won’t have it any other way.


He withholds affection if you make a mistake.

One of the reasons you don’t want to disappoint your dad is that you’re afraid of his reaction. Instead of encouraging you to learn from your mistakes, your father might shame you for them.

He may yell, punish, or give the silent treatment for an indefinite period whenever you make an error. Such a relationship festers guilt and frustration inside the son, which may lead to various mental health conditions. 


He never says, “good job”.

Getting reprimanded for shortcomings is one thing. But not receiving good feedback for your efforts is much worse. In unhealthy father-son relationships, praise is given sparingly.

This can be quite detrimental for the son as he never receives sufficient validation. Moreover, it might make him engage in maladaptive ways to seek this validation elsewhere.


He is violent.

Violence is probably the height of unhealthiness in this relationship. Witnessing domestic violence not only traumatises young boys but also teaches them to be violent due to observational learning.

According to researchers, unless fathers behave in nurturing and non-patriarchal ways, the father-son relations will continue to reproduce the norms of misogyny and male violence.

Were you able to relate to the things we described in this video? Did any of these signs remind you of your dad? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.


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