WE often hear of absentee or deadbeat fathers, but when a mother leaves her child, the blow is more devastating.
Clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell said though the issue of mothers who leave their kids is not a regular occurrence in Jamaica, a number of things could cause mothers to do such a thing.
"There are a number of psychological or psychiatric issues that impact upon the decision-making skills of mothers. The emotional state of the mother could be an issue and she may have deep hatred for the father of the child, and the psychosocial environment as well as the conditions in which conception may have occurred may result in the parent blaming the child and leaving them behind," Bell said.
There have been many reports of babies being left on buses, dumped in pits or left with persons in markets and stores when there are issues like poverty affecting the mothers.
But Antonio still can't understand why his five-year-old son's mother, an educated, highly paid professional, shows no interest, having left him to raise the boy from he was six months old.
"I got back together with my old girlfriend right after she had the baby ,so I knew that was devastating. Even more, was when my girlfriend got pregnant too. But it's been years now, and she won't even take our son for the weekend."
Antonio, whose name has been changed for privacy, said there are no phone calls, no contact, even though he constantly begs the mother to be involved.
"She claimed that my girlfriend had ruined her family, and I understood how she felt at first. But to abandon your flesh and blood? She has seen our son probably two other times since he was six months old."
Dr Bell said additionally, cases of abuse may lead to children being abandoned by their mothers.
"The mother may have been raped or the father may have been physically abusive and the child stands as a reminder of the ordeal the mother went through," she said.
Also, she stated that irresponsibility plays a major part, as well as the age of the mother.
"Some mothers will feel that children are a burden and in their self-seeking and self-gratification process the child will block their progress. Also, very young persons may think they are not prepared enough as they themselves are children," Bell said.
But according to Bell, when mothers leave, children are affected emotionally and socially, as the natural bond that mothers provide does not take place.
Antonio says his son is testament to this.
"He sticks to me like glue, crying uncontrollably when I have to leave. He's very reserved and doesn't speak of his mother at all. But times like holidays and Mother's Day, or when he sees certain advertisements on TV, he gets sad."
Said Dr Bell: "Psychological theories suggest that children need early attachment from ages 0-2 from the mother. When the attachment is not had, it could affect how the child ends up forming attachments of their own. They may develop mistrust of the world, self-esteem issues, and interpersonal relationship issues."
To top it off, she said it affects their psychological state and their confidence and etiquette become affected and they start harbouring feelings of resentment and abandonment.
She said the children may begin to doubt their self-worth and question the reason their mother left.
This is something a Mandeville mother is trying to prevent happening with the six-year-old who was left with her by her mother three years ago.
The mother, a family aquaintance, brought the child to visit for the holidays and never came back for her.
"She said her new boyfriend didn't like the child and would hit her. She said because we have the money we could better take care of her. That was three years ago, and I haven't heard from her since."
She said initially the child would use her faeces to smear the wall and lash out — classic signs of abuse — but now, with counselling, she's doing better.
"I'm sure when she's older she'll have abandonment issues, but we'll take the problems as they come."
Dr Bell said many children whose mothers leave end up pushing against the abandonment factor to succeed.
"But it does not negate the fact that they have it in the back of their heads to ask why she left in the first place. Sometimes the mother has other children that she cares for and the child, knowing this, will develop self-doubt," she said.