We are in a changing world with fewer intact “traditional” families and more blurred roles of mother and father. Facing a higher divorce rate than any other time in history, the best and healthiest outcome for a child in a divorced or separated family is for both parents to agree, as best they can, on custody arrangements and co-parenting.

June celebrates Father’s Day, and it is an apt time to reflect on the evolution of Fatherhood and the role of the father. Today, fathers who live with their children are taking a more active role in care and upbringing of their children, and the numbers of stay-at-home and single fathers have grown significantly in recent decades.

It is an unfortunate fact that ever-increasing numbers of children are growing up without a father in the home. Millions of children are being deprived of the benefit of both of their parents actively involved in their lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America live in homes that are absent of both biological parents, most often the father.

The changing role of fathers has introduced new challenges, as dads juggle the competing demands of family and work. Research from the Pew Research Center has revealed some interesting facts about the changing definition of what it is to be a father.

Dads see parenting as central to their identity. Dads are just as likely as moms to Some 57% of fathers say that parenting is extremely important to their identity, and 54% appreciate the benefits of parenthood.

Dads are much more involved in child care than they were 50 years ago. Fathers reported spending, on average, eight hours a week on child care – about triple the time they provided back in 1965.

A majority of fathers feel they don’t spend enough time with their kids. Most (63%) say they spend too little time with their kids.

Work-family balance is a challenge for many working fathers. Over half of working dads (52%) find it challenging to balance work and family life, and nearly half (48%) said they would prefer to be home with their children but could not due to financial needs.

It’s become less common for dads to be their family’s sole breadwinner. 27% of couples living with children younger than 18 are in families where only the father works. This is a significant drop from 47% in 1970.

Many old perceptions of the roles of mother and father remain embedded in society. Despite changing gender roles, mothers are still perceived as better equipped than fathers to care for children. Pew Research Center revealed that 53% of Americans said that mothers do a better job than fathers.

In addition, 64% say men and women have different approaches to parenting. Roughly two-thirds of fathers (68%) who see gender differences in parenting styles say these differences are mostly based on biology, while 31% say they are based on societal expectation.

Regardless of the changes in the structure of the family, gender roles or the definitions of what it means to be a father, DRC knows there are essentials that every father must provide to his children, whether he is a member of the more “traditional” family, divorced or separated, or a single father. The “Fatherhood Four” are fundamentals that have not, and will not, change.

The Fatherhood Four Commitments

  1. A father’s primary focus should be his children. Whatever complications or challenges may exist or develop, a father should put the safety, health, happiness and well-being of his children first. This will be displayed not only in words, but consistently through actions and deeds.
  2. Fathers should respectfully co-parent. Fathers should communicate with their children’s mother in a polite and courteous manner, and make every effort to accommodate reasonable adaptations to parenting plans. A child’s mother should never be knowingly portrayed in a negative light to children, and the mother/child relationship should be supported.
  3. Fathers should ensure the basic needs of their children. This includes financially, medically, educationally and developmentally. Children’s overall welfare and safety first should always be first. Fathers should be active in the lives of their children, spending meaningful, quality time with them, actively communicate with them, be a positive role model and influence on their lives.
  4. Fathers should strive to be the best possible father. Fathers should teach and mentor their children, and strive to be loving and caring of a father.