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Fatherhood

Future Of Fatherhood

Fatherhood is changing. However, two distinct bipolar trends—father-absence versus father-involvement and father-provider versus father-nurturer—are still evident in modern fatherhood in many different countries throughout the world. An extreme form of father-absence, resulting from divorce and abandonment, has become such a problem that governments in many Western countries are intervening through child support enforcement agencies to force men to provide financially for their children. On the other hand, there are increased numbers of younger middle-class men moving in the direction of more involvement and nurturance in childcare and family life, as found in family forms such as househusband fathers and single adoptive fathers. This androgynous style fits the emerging broader economic and social realities better than older styles of fatherhood. It is believed that these trends will continue despite some people's resistance to the blurring of gender roles. The future will offer fathers multiple options rather than stereotypic roles. With fewer parental prescriptions, modern men are—and will continue to be—freer to choose their own degree of involvement in child rearing and family life. Men will have a broader range of parenthood possibilities from which they can choose the fatherhood model most appropriate for themselves and their circumstances.

The majority of father research has focused on the early part of the family life cycle—pregnancy, birth, and infancy. There needs to be further investigation of the other developmental periods. It is also important to study fatherhood in different social contexts. Scholars need to make finer distinctions between male and female parenting roles and the impact of each gender on the growth and development of children. Examples of questions that need to be answered are: If society values males as parents, how can males be socialized earlier in life to become more nurturing and caregiving with children? What changes are needed in social, economic, legal, educational, and healthcare systems that would enhance men's effective parenting and positive family relationships? Finally, policies and practices need to be placed in international perspective by cross-cultural and cross-national comparisons. Addressing these issues will advance the understanding of fatherhood.


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ROSS D. PARKE
DAVID J. MCDOWELL

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodFatherhood - Historical Perspectives, Fathers Across The Life Span, Determinants Of Father-involvement, Divorced And Single Fathers