Fatherhood is beginning to change. The change may be due to increased levels of divorce. Also there are an increasing number of children being born into non-marital cohabitating relationships. The traditional environment of marriage and children has changed in recent years. It is now common to find cohabitating couples with children. In the last forty years the percentage of births outside of marriage has quadrupled. There has been a change from eleven percent in 1970 to forty one percent in 2012.
At the time of a child’s birth unmarried couples may exhibit a great deal of relationship instability. And within five years of birth, only one third of unmarried couples are still in a romantic intimate relationship. This has led to a dramatic shift in the complexity of families. Adults are now having children with more than one partner. Research has indicated that few men are conforming to the traditional fatherhood pathway. Men are no longer having all their children within an enduring first marriage. Men are now more likely to have children to multiple partners. This is especially true if their first sexual experience was at a young age.
The pathway to fatherhood may be influenced by socio-economic factors. Married fathers are generally healthier and wealthier than non-married fathers. It’s important to note that fatherhood confers a level of status on men. And fathers get pleasure from interacting with children. Many fathers say that they feel it is important to spend time with their children.
Fatherhood can strengthen other relationships. It can strengthen the marital relationship. Fatherhood can also strengthen relationships with the in-laws and with your family of origin. In multiple partner relationships fathers may decide to have additional children. The addition of extra children to a new partner can be seen as cementing their new relationship.
Evolutionary theory provides an understanding of why different patterns of fatherhood may have developed. There may be strategies that influence the drive for fatherhood. The first strategy suggests having many children but investing little time and energy in each child’s survival. The second strategy suggests having fewer children and investing a lot in their survival and success.
Fatherhood may be responsible for a change in male behaviour. There can be a shift away from individualism which can lead to the elimination of negative behaviours. The change can lead to men making healthier life choices. These choices can include a reduction or stopping of alcohol and/or drug use. And this may also include the elimination of risky behaviour such as speeding, or driving under the influence. Other changes may include better nutrition and regular visits to their GP.
Fatherhood is a special time in any man’s life.
Christopher Swane - Counselling And Psychotherapy For Men - Wellington New Zealand