Why parents abandon their children

Friday October 08 2010

A parent who feels unable to identify with a child born with a complication of some kind, like a deformity, will abandon them for fear of lifelong stress.

The scene has been redone and retold a little too many times: An abandoned child is found by a garbage heap, outside an orphanage, or at the roadside. This is extreme though; some parents just leave the child with a relative and never come back. They never visit and never send any financial assistance. When you try to trace them from their previous address, they are no longer there.

But why on earth does a parent abandon an innocent vulnerable child? Why would a parent want to disappear without a trace? Why not formally put the child up for adoption?

Dennis Odoi, a child psychologist, thinks the frivolous attitude people attach to sex has got a lot to with it. People like the idea of having free irresponsible sex - what’s known as having fun. “What they do not know is that sex is very expensive in the long run and has consequences.

Sex - unplanned or planned, leads to children. So when people wake up to the realisation that they do not have the money to raise a child, they conveniently get rid of it. The child is spoiling the fun.”

For some parents, the reasons are not that vain. Children that are a result of defilement, rape or incest are usually abandoned by their parents because they were not wanted or planned for in the first place. Odoi says there’s a high tendency to reject such children as they are constant reminders of the abuse.

This ruthless act can also done by a parent who feels unable to identify with a child born with a complication of some kind, like a deformity, HIV/Aids or some other terminal illness. “The parent feels that such a child is going to be life-long baggage that will take a toll on them physically, emotionally and financially. To avoid all this stress, a child is abandoned in the hope that they die, or someone who feels better-placed to look after them takes over,” explains Odoi.


Parenting is hard work and to ease their lives, some parents may send a little financial help to relatives who are staying with the children without necessarily getting involved in their children’s lives.

The effects of abandonment on a child
Probably, if parents thought hard about the terrible outcome of this heinous act on the lives of not only these children but also on all their future relationships with spouses, children or colleagues at work - with the domino effect affecting many generations to come, they wouldn’t do it. Think about what psychology research has unearthed over time; the fact that a rejected child will most probably turn out insecure and controlling and unable to have any meaningful relationships.

Odoi says such a child will most certainly have low self-confidence and esteem, with very poor inter-personal skills due to the confusion raging in his mind about why they could have been abandoned. He’s not likely to be trusting or comfortable around people.

“Such children do not perform well academically too,” the child psychologist adds. “They may perform well, but will never achieve their highest potential because they are not motivated and encouraged the way it would have been with a loving parent. Not many relatives, however loving, are going to ensure that a child is rewarded per achievement and much as foster homes do the commendable job of taking them in when no one wants them, they cannot buy each child a gift each time performance improves because they are so pre-occupied with providing them with the basics.”

A child raised by a relative or orphanage will most likely take on whatever religion/faith that is subscribed to. So, if the guardians practice witchcraft, the child too will be inducted.
According to Odoi, because children in a foster home can be in the hundreds, with a number of care-takers who are just looking after them as part of their paid duty, these people may not make any effort to impart important life values like honesty, integrity and respect for authority.

Odoi adds that seeking to be loved, girls from such backgrounds, however educated and beautiful, will usually jump into bed with the first man who professes love because not many guardians have the time to keep re-assuring the child about their love while worrying about their food, shelter and tuition. The child may never have felt special, so they will put up with any form of abuse from a person who shows them any indication that they are special; the reason they usually turn out victims of abuse.