Lifestyle / Family

Citizen Reporter
4 minute read
19 Nov 2021
1:54 pm

This is how SA dads feel about their kids born out of wedlock

Citizen Reporter

The majority of fathers surveyed believe if a child is conceived outside of wedlock, both the mother and father have equal rights to the child.

Picture: iStock

Ever wished you had insight into how South African fathers really feel about being a dad?

The State of South Africa’s Fathers’ (SOSAF 2021) Report which is produced by a group of authors, including academics from different universities, practitioners from various organisations, postgraduate students, and young people writing about their own fathers might be able to give you some information around how dads feel about fatherhood.

The report which was led by Wessel van den Berg of Sonke Gender Justice, Tawanda Makusha of the Human SciencesResearch Council, and Kopano Ratele of Stellenbosch University was launched yesterday.

The aim of the report is to debunk uninformed and false narratives about South African fathers and fatherhood.

The SOSAF 2021 report includes the findings of the first-ever, specially dedicated and largest survey conducted on fathers and fatherhood in South Africa. The survey covered a sample of 1,003 men from all nice provinces, who have biological children or act in the capacity of fathers for children.

The main survey goal was to get insights into a range of attitudes and practices related to the lives of fathers and the current state of fatherhood in the country.

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Here are some of the findings about South African fathers

General thoughts around fatherhood from SA fathers

  • 1 out of 5 non-resident fathers had contact with their child at least twice a week.
  • Two thirds of survey respondents who are not the child’s biological father, but care for the child, did homework with the children they care for.
  • 73% agreed that it is appropriate for men to be pre-school teachers.
  • 77% agreed that men are as good caregivers as women.

Thoughts around bonds and connections from dads:

  • Many fathers desire close relationships with children.
  • Fathers report participation in a range of daily caregiving activities.
  • Conflictual family relationships hinder father-child connection, transformative approaches to family mediation can support non-resident father-child connection.

What role do grandparents, brothers and uncles play as support for dads?

  • Men, as fathers, are located and embedded in wider kinship structures and practices of care, informed by lineage and the state.
  • Social fathers care for children and other caregivers in their wider kin group. The SOSAF 2021 survey showed that more men believe doing care work makes a man a father, rather than making a woman pregnant.
  • South Africa’s plural legal system can give rise to tensions in determining fathers’ rights and responsibilities to children in the context of statutory as well as customary law.
  • The majority of fathers surveyed for the SOSAF 2021 report believe that if a child is conceived outside of wedlock, both the mother and father have equal rights to the child.
  • The state’s discriminatory treatment of unmarried fathers and the lack of state recognition of the role they and their kin play in caring for children is concerning and an area of research and implementation that needs to be strengthened by the Department of Home Affairs.

Finances and dads

  • Financial provision remains the most central dimension of fatherhood for many men. Having a job and providing for your children are still considered the most honoured form of masculinity and fatherhood.
  • Unemployed and poor men who are unable to provide for their children and families face shame and humiliation, and they are more likely to disengage from their families.
  • Some unemployed or precariously employed men avoid contacting their children and families when they are not able to give financial support.
  • The gender-based division of labour frames childcare as an arena for mothers, while limiting fathers’ role to financial provision.
  • To encourage men’s participation in childcare, the concept of ‘care’ needs to be stripped of its gender bias in a way that allows both men and women to perform such care work.

Incarcerated, single, gay or teenage fathers: Disrupting stereotypical notions of fatherhood

  • The experiences of fathers who are incarcerated, single, gay or teenagers demonstrate the difficulty in disrupting stereotypical notions of fatherhood.
  • Whilst incarcerated fathers feel guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, powerless, and helpless for not supporting their children financially, some of these fathers are committed to their roles as fathers; and they hope for assistance to sustain healthy relationships with their children.
  •  Some single fathers believe they can raise children on their own just as mothers can, while others say their experience as single fathers made them realise that both the father and the mother are important to a child’s development.
  • Gay men who choose to be fathers are not only perceived as a threat to stereotypical notions of fatherhood – their pathways to parenthood are deemed as a transgression of the nuclear family, reproduction, and gender-based expectations of parenting roles.

Read the full report here.

Compiled by Farrah Saville