Paternal Abandonment and Female Adult Term Paper

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e. fat storage. These physiological concerns are significant in that programming that was designed to maintain a nurturing position for young children the physiological environment interprets crisis as anything that creates a stressful physical demeanor. The stress and psychology of abandonment is a constant, once the abandonment by the father has occurred. The body does not distinguish between a fasting period associated with unavailable food, or drought and psychological long-term emotional stress. The human body also does not distinguish between a self imposed diet and a period of famine. It reduces its basal metabolic rate, or the rate of metabolism needed to perform its base functions, and then the recovery period would seem to be longer than expected. This is the diet conundrum, though it has also been proven that prolonged periods of psychological stress and/or depression that could be associated with abandonment by the father will also cause a similar basal metabolic rate reduction.

The human body can adapt to a period of caloric restriction by lowering its basal metabolic rate, so as to conserve energy, glucose, and protein. There is mounting evidence that when the restriction is relaxed or lifted metabolic rate may remain below normal, for at least a few months and perhaps longer (Keys et al. 1950; Kirkley and Burge 1989). Thus, when an individual reaches desired low weight and increases caloric intake, her body may store the added calories as fat, rather than using them. Prolonged semistarvation, whether self-inflicted or involuntary, produces a host of symptoms (e.g., irritability, lability of mood, fatigue, and an obsession with food). (Stephens, Hill & Hanson, 1994, p. 137)

In at least one study there was a clear correlation made between work stress and incidence of obesity, at least a limited indicator that prolonged stress can create a situation ripe for the development of obesity. (Hellerstedt, and Jeffrey, 1997, pp. 575-583) the issue of prolonged stress due to abandonment can be excessive and complex and it is safe to say there are many unknowns with regard to how children perceive and deal with such stress, both psychologically and physiologically.

Abandoned children may also experience economic duress, vicariously through the single parent. The absence of the remaining parent is also a common stressor (as well as the missing parent) as absence is required to maintain the economic needs of a family, with only one physical provider. As one researcher puts it, "single parenting and paternal abandonment are major causes of poverty, especially childhood poverty" (Patterson, 2002, p. 26)They may also feel and adapt to the emotional stress felt by the remaining parent to provide for children as well as to provide adequate physical and emotional care for them. The factors are extremely multifaceted, and don't even touch on the core feelings of rejection, often resulting in misplaced anger that will intensify the stress associated with the situation. Children as young as five have been shown to experience symptoms of clinical depression resulting from their perception of the world as a rejecting and neglectful environment. Once again, such issues are largely unknowns, as childhood stress adaptation and depression are not completely understood. What is known is that there is a clear connection between depression and overweight/obesity and many of the patterns that produce them are retained by children into adulthood, resulting in adult depression and sometimes other health related issues, such as overweight/obesity both which come with a slew of psychical and psychological risks. (Bifulco, 1998) in one study discussing the efficacy of family based therapies for the treatment of childhood obesity, there is a clear indication that such therapy and others may be effective but require the involvement and support of the whole family, including the father. (Epstein et al., 1990) Other issues that are associated with the abandoned girl have to do with the gendered manner in which young girls receive and accept messages, regarding body image and self-worth. It is accepted by some that female children (especially in adolescence) are more receptive to messages regarding body image, either negative or positive from their fathers. (Vincent & McCabe, 1999) if such an influence is absent, then the issue may become an unknown for the young girl, and hence she must then rely exclusively on the frequently unobtainable ideals of the ultra-thin body. (Mccabe & Ricciardelli, 2001, p. 225) Coupling this information with the patterns of girls being more likely to utilize dieting as a weight loss strategy (Mccabe & Ricciardelli, 2001, p. 225) and the fact that periods of semi-starvation are not effective for long-term weight loss the girl may then develop a pattern of unhealthy behavior associated with eating that will carry them into adulthood, and could develop into a situation of obesity.


Girls who were abandoned are more likely to become obese adults than girls who maintained a close relationship with their fathers throughout childhood. This work will attempt to answer the research Question; Is there a correlation between obese adult females and childhood abandonment by their fathers?

Review of Literature:

The evolution of the obesity epidemic is difficult to trace, as there is are many mitigating factors. The overall impression is that overweight and obesity are much more common that ever before, and largely in developed nations. The concerns of the medical community, as well as many others, economically and socially driven, are conglomerated in a maze of ideas about cause and effect of obesity. Some say that obesity is a symptom of disease, or unhealthy, rather than a disease itself, while others contend that obesity should be recognized and treated as a chronic disease, just like many others. The foundational problem then arises as to how to develop a clear sense of the problem and its many debated solutions. For a fascinating discussion of the evolution of the medical understanding of obesity and overweight see Pool 2001. (Pool, 2001, p. 37) the resulting variation in theory, as a result of early research, as well as social phenomena can be baffling to even the most ardent research professional, let alone the individual seeking to find solutions to their own problem of overweight or fear of it. Some say that diet and exercise are the only logical answers while others say that diet and exercise have caused some of the problem (specifically diet behaviors and mentalities). When attempting to create a comprehensive review of literature with regard to the nature of the obesity epidemic it becomes increasingly clear that there are many theories very few of which touch on prolonged psychological stress as a factor in obesity, and none specifically address abandonment by the father as a mitigating risk factor in female adult obesity. In fact it is clear that most discussion in the literature simply points out the increased prevalence of obesity and tells the individual, hearing the warning to seek help from their medical professional. ("Most U.S. Adults at," 2005) the concern is then that the individual, given conflicting information relies on a medical profession that is just as confused as they are about the causes of obesity.

As has been stated previously, the idea that obesity and its increase is completely is a physiological phenomena, occurring today because there is a greater availability of high caloric foods and a lower level of physical activity has been propagated extensively by many facets of the community concerned with overweight and obesity. One writer points out that:

Some of the problems with current knowledge about overweight and obesity appear to be more willful and are the products of a determination to see the world in particular ways. For example, the overweight and obesity literature is dominated by the idea that Western society in general is more sedentary than in the past when almost no empirical evidence for this claim exists. In fact, there are many core ideas within the science of body weight and health and the mediating role played by exercise and diet which are simply assumed to be true. (Ross, 2004, p. 4)

The concerns then become even more complex, as assumptions guide intervention, even when such intervention (i.e. putting the body through semi-starvation and/or increased levels of activity that mimic historical physical stress) could actually be more harmful than good for the developing body and mind. The weight loss industry is also a major source of funding for research and development, even of the most scientific nature and is a huge and growing industry.

Indeed, by 1990, the revenues of the commercial weight loss industry totaled more than $30,000,000,000. According to Marketdata Enterprises, $8,000,000,000 was spent on diet centers and programs; group and individual weight loss; diet camps; prepackaged foods; over-the-counter and prescription drugs; weight loss books and magazines; and physicians, nurses, nutritionists, and other professionals specializing in weight loss. Commercial and residential exercise clubs with weight loss programs brought in an additional $8,000,000,000, and revenues from sugar-free, fat-free, and reduced-calorie food products, imitation fats, and sugar substitutes amounted to more…[continue]

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