Children without a father figure are without physical and emotional protection.
Heartlines, the Centre for Values Promotion has reported that the traditional South African nuclear family is largely a fiction and that an alarming amount of children are being raised without their biological fathers.
The research they did on fatherhood in South Africa has provided novel insight which was used as a part of an initiative to promote social unity. This research has revealed the current condition of fatherhood in our nation.
It is a complex situation.
A number of kids who have been raised by single mothers have gone on to have successful lives, but for many other children, the lack of a positive and active male role model in their lives puts them at risk. Such fatherless children are deprived of the physical and emotional safety that an actively involved father can bring to the family.
It’s clear that the figures are not encouraging.
Research from around the world, including South Africa, has demonstrated the importance of engaged and supportive fathers.
When children are not exposed to an involved father figure or elder male, they face a high possibility of being perpetrators and victims of violence in both their childhood and adulthood. Furthermore, they are more likely to suffer from drug abuse, early pregnancy, bad academic performance, mental health issues, and delinquent behavior.
When fathers are not actively involved in their children’s lives, the chances of these kids being sexually abused are five times higher, and the risks of premature death, mental health issues, and even suicide are also vastly more elevated.
Adults are more likely to be out of a job, have a low income, and be without a place to call home.
South African fathers were asked to explain what fatherhood means to them and their responses were shared here.
In an interview with Parent24, Pamela Kgare, the project manager at Heartlines, highlighted the importance of the study for delving into the range of attitudes and beliefs that are behind the absence of fathers from South African homes, regardless of race and socioeconomic status.
Kids who are deprived of the full presence of their fathers experience the lack profoundly, expressing it not as a lack of material assistance, but as a deep absence of a parent.
One person included in the Heartlines study stated that, despite not having a father, they would appreciate the little things, such as someone simply saying “I love you.”
The Duty of Being a Dad
Slavin, who was the leader of the research study, states that the results are invaluable because they not only unveil how fathers are perceived and how they fulfill their paternal role, but also illustrate what obstructs and encourages their active involvement.
The researcher declared that the data gathered was abundant and one-of-a-kind, allowing for the voices, experiences, convictions, and habits of the participants to be heard.
Research uncovered that there is a strongly held belief in South African culture that associates being a father with providing both financially and materially.
According to the expert, fatherhood is seen as a transactional relationship. When dads cannot contribute financially, either they are not allowed to be part of the kids’ lives or their feelings of guilt motivate them to stay away from other vital, non-material aspects.
In addition to providing monetary assistance
The outbreak of Covid-19 has caused a variety of economic issues, making it difficult for many fathers to financially support their families. This dilemma will likely be worsened as more individuals experience a loss of income.
Treger Slavin states that the Heartlines Fathers Matter research has conclusively demonstrated that a father’s role is much more than just monetary support.
Female caregivers should motivate fathers to be involved and present in their children’s lives. The protective part that a dad plays is immense and should not be underestimated. This is fundamental for the child’s health and carries on as they grow up and become an adult.
One individual who took part in the research articulated the sentiment of many others when they said, “It’s tough seeing other kids with their dads while you crave for your own father to be there. You can observe children with their fathers taking pictures and wish you were in them too.”
Barriers that prevent fathers from being engaged with their children can include:
* Social stigma
* Lack of knowledge of how to interact with children
* Limited support from the mother
* Lack of access to resources
* Inadequate time or energy due to work commitments
* Financial struggles
* Difficulty in forming a connection with the child
* Cultural norms and expectations.
The study has determined that, apart from the conventional view of fathers being largely uninvolved, there are a few other issues that impede fathers from being part of their children’s lives.
A major impediment is migrant labour, since numerous men are obliged to labor away from their families.
A high rate of joblessness is perceived as a significant hindrance to men’s involvement.
Treger Slavin reported a shocking discovery, noting that a number of men commented that women were occasionally an impediment to their involvement in their children’s lives. They revealed that even when they were unable to give financial assistance, there were times when women would deny them access to their kids.
One study participant, who was not an outlier in terms of their experience, stated, “When I’m battling with the mother, she will say, ‘This isn’t your offspring.’ But when I offer money, the mother is pleased and then I’m suddenly the parent again. That’s when I also begin to pull away and I can’t figure out exactly where I stand.”
In addition to other obstacles, institutional and systemic practices, such as in the healthcare and legal systems, can be a hindrance. Additionally, challenging personal relationships between parents, as well as the cultural expectations of women returning to their familial homes after child birth and certain elements of lobola can also create difficulties.
Treger Slavin reveals that Heartlines took on the investigation to get a better grasp of familial relationships in South Africa.
This is a step in our exploration of the social problems in South Africa. We must gain insight into familial relationships and offer organisations and people potential solutions to difficulties that endanger social unity.
Our final goal is to gain understanding in order to cause positive changes to the way we interact with each other and strengthen social harmony.