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New challenges for today's dads

Media release
New challenges for today's dads.
30 August 2012

The Families Commission says Fathers’ Day provides a timely opportunity to acknowledge a group of fathers who are often overlooked.

The Commission’s Chief Research Analyst, Dr Jeremy Robertson, says more fathers than ever before are now the main caregivers for their children.

Dr Robertson says “This group has grown in size over the last 30 years, and now almost 5% of families are those where the father has separated and maintained the main care of his children.”

The Families Commission’s recent publication, NZ families today, A brief demographic profile, summarised key facts about New Zealand families, revealing significant changes in our social fabric and identifying trends over the past few decades.

“Families headed by dads now make up 17% of sole parent families,” says Dr Robertson. “Most of these families will be formed as the result of separation or divorce, although in some cases the mother will have died.”

The number of families where the father has the main care has grown from 7,143 families in 1976 to 24,036 in 2006.

“Research suggests that fathers are more likely to have the main care for older children and for sons,” Says Dr Robertson. “Just as with sole parent families headed by mothers, it is likely that in most cases the children living mainly with dad will be having regular contact with their other parent.”

The Commission’s Principal Policy Analyst, Francis Luketina says, “We know from our research that single fathers can feel isolated and in need of additional support.”

He says, “Fathers can find it daunting to deal with early childhood education providers, health providers and other child support agencies which mainly deal with mothers. Single fathers have to interact with these agencies, whereas for many other families, the mother will often have this role.”

Mr Luketina says, “This Fathers’ Day could be an opportunity for agencies to think about how they can make themselves more welcoming to fathers. There are some simple things they can do, which can be quite supportive. We are used to seeing pictures of mothers and babies on the walls, for example, but displaying a few pictures showing fathers with their children can be very encouraging.” And he says, “In larger agencies, having men on the staff is a real help.”

Mr Luketina says, “Above all, single fathers appreciate someone to talk to.”


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