Fathers and other men in the lives of children and families

Type Working Paper
Title Fathers and other men in the lives of children and families
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
URL http://carnegie3.org.za/docs/papers/231_Richter_Fathers and other men in the lives of children and​families.pdf
South Africa has one of the highest rates of father absence in the world. Only about a third of
South African preschool children live in the same homes as their fathers and mothers (Statistics
South Africa, 2011). Nonethless, many fathers support their children and remain in contact with
them despite living apart. For some other children, maternal uncles and grandfathers, as well as
older brothers, assume the role of social fathers, supporting their mothers, providing for
children’s livelihood and education, and giving them paternal love and guidance.
Migrant labour and the resulting fluidity of family life, delayed marriage due to lobola
requirements, gender-based violence and a growing autonomy amongst South African women
are cited as contributors to father absence from households (Posel & Devey, 2006; Richter, et
al, 2010). Father absence is associated with adverse consequences for children, women,
families and men. However, where work patterns and employment have been favourable, there
is evidence of even working class men embracing an engaged form of fatherhood, reading to
their children and taking an interest in their schooling (Rabe, 2007).
International research and some studies from South Africa indicate that children whose fathers
are present achieve better at school, have higher self-esteem and are more secure in their
relationships with partners of the opposite sex (Carslon, 2006; Flouri & Buchanan, 2002; Richter
et al., 2011; Schacht et al, 2009). Women who are supported in stable bonds with men
experience lower levels of family stress, are less likely to suffer mental health problems and
derive greater satisfaction from their roles as mothers (Richter et al., 2011). Importantly, men
not only contribute to women’s wellbeing and happiness, but in several studies men have also
been found to buffer children against neglectful or harsh parenting by a distant, demoralized or
overburdened mother (Martin et al, 2010).

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