Single fatherhood cannot be said to be a new phenomenon as it has existed for ages. Statistics in 1935 showed that mortality rate of mothers during birth was as high as 58 deaths for every 10,000 live births (Jacobs, 1984). This high mortality death rate normally left the fathers if not the grandparents to take care of the children. Today, high levels of medical advancement have reduced this rate to at least 23 deaths per 10,000 live births. The overall mortality rate has also lowered such that there is a significant reduction in widowers witnessed across the globe.
The single father phenomenon in the society has however continued souring this time influenced by other factors with divorce taking the leading role in causing single fatherhood. The current rate of divorce now hovers at 5. 1 for every 1000 people and is bound to rise as with increased women liberation (Gale, 2006). Apart from single fathers arising from death of spouses and divorce, there is a new trend where men are making choices of living an unmarried life and instead opting to adopt children or getting surrogate mothers to bear them children without having to marry them.
The number of single fathers in the U. S had escalated to 2. 3 million in 2004 from 393,000 in 1970 (Kimel and Aronson, 2004). Notable is that as much as single fathers may vary in behavior and attitude, there are those common characteristics that are likely to be witnessed. The views on family life, marriage and their role in bringing up the children may be different from one parent to another. Fathers are more likely to be affected by marital disruption especially where they have to keep the custody of the children.
This paper explores the single father’s views on family life, how they have been affected by familial experiences and the dynamics associated with courtship and marriage in this social group. Literature Review Single fathers and their views on family life It is not surprising that most single parents still believe that the family is of great importance more so in the children’s development. Traditionally, the mother is usually responsible for the children’s development which is why it often becomes a challenge when the father has to take the responsibility wholly. However, different single fathers view family life in different ways.
This mostly depends on the reasons behind their single father status. According to Greif (1999), a single father who chooses not to marry and instead adopts or gets a surrogate child has made up his mind to stay single. He values having children for company and other reasons but does not wish to get married. This kind of a single father cannot be compared to another who has been used to having a complete family which is disrupted by divorce or death of a spouse (Grief, 1999). The challenges involved in adopting to be both mother and father to the child are quite overwhelming to most custodial fathers.
The prospects of juggling work with domestic chores, care of young children with no support from the children’s mother weighs heavily on single fathers (Gale, 2006). This is more so where they have not been actively involved in constant care and responsibility over the children. Single fathers are likely to feel that their children are not getting the best as when they would have been in a complete family. Single fathers with daughters especially those in their adolescence are likely to feel incompetent more so when it comes to sex education (Eirick, 2003).
They may feel that their approach is not right or they may have difficulties taking up the responsibility. According to Eirick (2003), most fathers felt that there was need for differences in socialization when it came to caring for their daughters. As a result, most of the parents are forced to seek counsel from their female friends and relatives for assistance with certain issues within the family. It is notable that most single fathers have a lot to gain from their extended families and will normally turn to them in the face of difficult challenges in parenting (Kimmel and Aronson).
Many are actually known to leave their children under the care of relatives while they go off to work since they may not be able to cope with the pressure. Such single fathers are not likely to demean the importance of family relations. Single fathers have in no doubt been influenced by familial experiences. New single fathers mostly cite their new responsibility as overwhelming because they are used to having a complete family where the mother takes most of the domestic roles (Hetherington, 1999). Complete adjustment of their schedules may need to change in order to cater for their children which may affect them psychologically.
Fathers who had been lucky to have both parents during their childhood are more likely to feel inadequate in bringing up their children alone. According to them, a child deserves to have a mother and a father if he or she will develop well (Greif, 1999). Most of them may re-marry so as to complete the family and give the children a mother. With fathers brought up by a single parent however, they are more experienced and will cope better in the absence of a spouse. This is because they know child upbringing can be done by one person single handedly as witnessed in their own childhood (Jacobs, 1984).
Dynamics in Marriage and Courtship The decision to court and marry is highly influenced by personal issues and concerns. Different single fathers go through various emotional and psychological turmoil when contemplating re-marriage (Shimberg, 2007). Culture and beliefs are also likely to affect a man’s decision to marry again. This is especially so where the widowed father has found it hard to get over the death of his former wife. The feeling of guilt and failure to project the period of time that he should take before replacing his wife is usually an issue of concern (Hetherington, 1999).
A man who becomes a single father as a result of divorce is likely to feel that courting and eventually marrying again may result to similar problems like the ones he has experienced before (Adler-Baeder and Higginbotham, 2004). According to them, it is better to stay single than to have a complete family full of problems. The greatest concern for single fathers is how their children are likely to be affected if they remarry after divorce or the death of their mother. The widower is likely to feel remorseful due to the death of a spouse and find it hard to marry someone else (Adler-Baeder and Higginbotham, 2004).
Most confess that even if they remarried, it would not be for love but for companionship and fulfillment of conjugal duties since new spouses could not replace their lost love (Eirick, 2003). A man who has had a good family life and whose children are particularly affected by the death of their mother will tend to marry again in his bid to fill the empty void with a mother figure. As indicated by Smith (2007) in his research paper ‘effect of consequent marriages after divorce’, second and consequent marriages are twice likely to fail than the first marriage.
This is probably the reason why so single fathers are more cautious with second marriages. The sexual discretion need is a common source of dilemma for single fathers who have to bargain between getting married again and the likely impact of a step mother on their children (Hetherington, 1999). For this reason, it is likely to find that most single fathers may opt to date and have relationships but have second thoughts about getting married. According to (Eirick, 2003), five out of every ten single fathers had relationships.
Asked whether they would eventually marry the person that they were dating, most were skeptical about it and preferred to give it some thought. Generally, most single fathers are cautious in order to protect their children from the psychological effects associated with coping with step-parents. Conclusion The number of single fathers has increased around the world due to various factors more so the increase in divorce cases and the changes in the cultural orientation such that many people prefer to stay single rather than get married.
The challenges affecting different single fathers vary and how they deal with them is highly influenced by cultural values. Familial influence also plays a significant role in determining the actions taken by single fathers concerning issues such as marriage and courtship. Taking up roles that are traditionally given to women comes in as a big challenge to men who are single fathers. The number of single fathers however continues to rise and with this increase more experience and courage to bring up children has been noticed in this group.
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