The fathers of Clermont : deadbeat dads or responsible parents?
Luthuli, Wiseman S'bongiseni.
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Men have been neglected in development discourse to the extent where, for example, demographic research on men and fathers has been sparse. As a result we do not know how many men in South Africa are fathers and there is no available survey that measures this statistic. This study attempts to fill a gap in our knowledge of fathers by asking how many men are fathers, whether they are resident or absent, and what type and level of involvement they have with their children. A household questionnaire (adapted from the General Household Survey) was used to estimate the number of biological fathers in 100 households in Clermont. Interviews were conducted to explore reasons for existing living arrangements between the father and his partner and children. Some key findings from the research include: the family structure of households in Clermont is extremely varied; a majority of men over the age of18 appear to have fathered a child; men willingly identified themselves as a father; and a significant number of men live apart from their children. With respect to absent fathers, the research supports Mott 's theory (1990) that there is a continuum of involvement with their children. Many of Clermont's absent fathers make a voluntary economic contribution to their children and they visit their children on a regular basis (usually weekly or monthly). In several cases where a father was not making an economic contribution this was because he was unemployed. Very few cases were recorded where a father had broken off contact with his children completely. Some fathers lived separately from their children because they had employment in another area. Others lived apart from their children because they were unemployed; it was clear from the research that while men perceived their role of provider as important this was not the only criterion to make for a good role model as a father. Tradition was another important reason why men did not reside with their children; cases were recorded where the father could not afford to pay lobola which would allow him to marry the mother. Another reason for father absence was because a new relationship had been formed by the mother or father, or both. A significant proportion of both resident and absent fathers stated they would like to spend more time with their children. This suggests policy and activities that promote increased involvement of fathers in the welfare of their children would be welcomed by the fathers of Clermont.