Determinants of father involvement : children, women and men's experiences of support children receive from men in KwaZulu-Natal.
This thesis examined the various determinants of father-child involvement, in particular, the effects of father residence, survival status and the presence of other men in households of which the focal child is a member. The study explored children, women and men‟s reports of support children receive from men in the context of poverty in KwaZulu-Natal. Data for this study came from the Human Sciences Research Council‟s project on child and family well-being in the context of HIV/AIDS and poverty entitled “Sibhekelela izingane zethu” (SIZE). SIZE is a community-representative, repeated measures study of 1961 households in 24 randomly selected school communities in the Msunduzi Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Quantitative data analysis was limited to baseline data. This thesis only utilized data from households where all three participants (caregiver, focal child and household head/representative of the household head) took part in the survey (N = 1793). In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty focal children, twenty female caregivers and sixteen fathers/father-figures nominated by the children in twenty randomly selected households. The quantitative part of this thesis focused on the various determinants of father involvement, in particular, the effects of father residence or survival status and the presence of other men in households of which the focal child is a member. Household socio-economic status, household size and access to water and electricity are used to describe the households in the sample and compare the wealth of households with men and those without male members. The study also provides socio-demographic information of the individual men in the households. It presents results of individual men‟s relationships to focal children, their ages, and marital, educational, and employment status. This data is used to examine the associations between fathers and other men, and their socio-economic capacity. This study acknowledges that while father-child co-residence is an important determinant of father involvement, for many years in South Africa this has not been a realizable situation. In this regard, this thesis concludes that residential fatherhood is a hard-won status achieved by men with substantially higher parental capacity and general lifetime success, particularly economic and social achievements which make them able to marry and co-reside with their children. However, despite low rates of father-child co-residency, most children have contact with their non co-resident fathers although only a third receives financial support from them. The first qualitative study of this thesis explored children, women and men‟s experiences of support children receive from men in families. The rationale behind this study was that most research on fathers‟ involvement is usually based on men‟s self-reports, women‟s appraisals or children‟s accounts of men‟s involvement. Results from this thesis indicate that men are important in children‟s lives. The nomination of a father-figure by all children, even if the man was not their biological father ascertained that all children receive some support from men. The results also highlight the influence of biological ties, co-residence, family social network, and marriage or father-mother relationship on fathers‟ involvement with their children – financial and the quality of their interaction. This qualitative study improves methodologies and addresses the validity, reliability and interrelations of children, men and women‟s reports of men‟s involvement in providing support to children in a South African context. This study was able to determine the informal, local systems of family support and the variety of contributions made by men in supporting children. In this way, the study provides a basis for research on local father involvement and for future comparison. The second qualitative study considered how childhood experiences with fathers are associated with women‟s expectations and men‟s experiences of fathering. Data was analysed in pairs of the focal child‟s caregiver and father-figure. Data from four women who were not paired was analysed individually. Results generally support both the modelling and compensatory hypotheses. Men and women exercise agency in negotiating the demands of fatherhood regardless of their childhood history with fathers. Childhood experiences with fathers, quality of father-mother relationship and father‟s individual characteristics are important determinants of father-child involvement. This study is one of the few studies that have counted, described and explored the role of men in supporting children in households. Clearly more research, both quantitative and qualitative, is needed to examine the several determinants of father‟s residency – including socio-cultural expectations, reasons for absence and involvement in children‟s lives. Understanding these fundamentals of fatherhood is crucial for the improvement of family policies already in place to better support and enable men to be more involved in the well-being of children.
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