A father is the male parent of a child. Besides the paternal bonds of a father to his children, the father may have a parental legal and social relationship with the child that carries with it certain rights and obligations, although this varies between jurisdictions. An adoptive father is a male who has become the child's parent through the legal process of adoption. A biological father is the male genetic contributor to the creation of the baby, through sexual intercourse or sperm donation. A biological father may have legal obligations to a child not raised by him, such as an obligation of monetary support. A putative father is a man whose biological relationship to a child is alleged but has not been established. A stepfather is a male who is the husband of a child's mother and they may form a family unit, but who generally does not have the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent in relation to the child.
The adjective "paternal" refers to a father and comparatively to "maternal" for a mother. The verb "to father" means to procreate or to sire a child from which also derives the noun "fathering". Biological fathers determine the sex of their child through a sperm cell which either contains an X chromosome (female), or Y chromosome (male). Related terms of endearment are dad (dada, daddy), papa, pappa, papasita, (pa, pap) and pop. A male role model that children can look up to is sometimes referred to as a father-figure.
The paternity rights of a father with regard to his children differ widely from country to country often reflecting the level of involvement and roles expected by that society.
- Paternity leave
Parental leave is when a father takes time off to support his newly born or adopted baby. Paid paternity leave first began in Sweden in 1976, and is paid in more than half of European Union countries. In the case of male same-sex couples the law often makes no provision for either one or both fathers to take have paternity leave.
- Child custody
- Child support
Child support is an ongoing periodic payment made by one parent to the other; it is normally paid by the parent who does not have custody.
- Paternity fraud
Role of the father
In almost all cultures fathers are regarded as secondary caregivers. This perception is slowly changing with more and more fathers becoming primary caregivers, while mothers go to work or in single parenting situations, male same-sex parenting couples.
- Fatherhood in the Western World
In the West, the image of the married father as the primary wage-earner is changing. The social context of fatherhood plays an important part in the well-being of men and all their children. In the United States 16% of single parents were men as of 2013.
- Importance of father or father-figure
Involved fathers offer developmentally specific provisions to their children and are impacted themselves by doing so. Active father figures may play a role in reducing behavior and psychological problems in young adults. An increased amount of father–child involvement may help increase a child's social stability, educational achievement, and their potential to have a solid marriage as an adult. Their children may also be more curious about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills. Children who were raised with fathers perceive themselves to be more cognitively and physically competent than their peers without a father. Mothers raising children together with a father reported less severe disputes with their child.
The father-figure is not always a child's biological father and some children will have a biological father as well as a step- or nurturing father. When a child is conceived through sperm donation, the donor will be the "biological father" of the child.
Fatherhood as legitimate identity can be dependent on domestic factors and behaviors. For example, a study of the relationship between fathers, their sons, and home computers found that the construction of fatherhood and masculinity required that fathers display computer expertise.
Determination of parenthood
Roman law defined fatherhood as "Mater semper certa; pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant" ("The [identity of the] mother is always certain; the father is whom the marriage vows indicate"). The recent emergence of accurate scientific testing, particularly DNA testing, has resulted in the family law relating to fatherhood experiencing rapid changes.
History of fatherhood
The link between sexual acts and procreation can be empirically identified, but is not immediately evident. Conception cannot be directly observed, whereas birth is obvious. The extended time between the two events makes it difficult to establish the link between them. It is theorised that some cultures have ignored that males impregnate females. Procreation was sometimes even considered to be an autonomous 'ability' of women: men were essential to ensure the survival and defence of the social group, but only women could enhance and reintegrate it through their ability to create new individuals. This gave women a role of primary and indisputable importance within their social groups.
This situation may have persisted throughout the Palaeolithic age. Some scholars assert that Venus figurines are evidence of this. During the transition to the Neolithic age, agriculture and cattle breeding became the core activities of a growing number of human communities. Breeding, in particular, is likely to have led women – who used to spend more time than men taking care of the cattle – to gradually discover the procreative effect of the sexual act between a male and a female.
For communities which looked at sexuality as simply a source of pleasure and an element of social cohesion, without any taboo character, this discovery must have led to some disruption. This would impact not only regulation of sexuality, but the whole political, social, and economic system. The shift in understanding would have necessarily taken a long time, but this would not have prevented the implications being relatively dramatic. Eventually, these implications led to the model of society which – in different times and shapes – was adopted by most human cultures.
Traditionally, caring for children is predominantly the domain of mothers, whereas fathers in many societies provide for the family as a whole. Since the 1950s, social scientists and feminists have increasingly challenged gender roles, including that of the male breadwinner. Policies are increasingly targeting fatherhood as a tool of changing gender relations.
Canadian Fatherhood in the Interwar Era
Fatherhood in Canada during the Interwar Period was a time of imposed change, led by state and expert advisement. A response to the impact of World War I on the male population, the Canadian government and citizens attempted to establish a “normalcy” of the family model which consisted of the stay-at-home mother and the breadwinner father as the ideal parental model. The challenge of this established normalcy was that few Canadians outside of the urban middle-class had ever seen this model in their households. Also, advice that was given to fathers at this time without sufficient recommendations on how to implement the standards of good fatherhood. Furthermore, expectations on fathers; and the actual practices of fathers were often different.
World War I's impact on fathers and fathers to be was devastating. Approximately 650,000 Canadian men served in the Armed Forces, and approximately 60,000 were killed, with another 60,000 bearing physical disabilities as a result of injuries. In this time period, very few programs or systems of support existed to help soldiers returning home. Because of this, many survivors of the War turned to drinking, distanced themselves from their families and lashed out at loved ones.
In response to this, government, academic and private institutions brought in experts in medicine, psychology, social work and education with the purpose of establishing a standard of good fathering. This advice was tailored to Anglo-Canadian working-class fathers, but was not written exclusively for them. According to these experts, a father was someone who was the main economic provider of the family, athletic, moral, devoted a portion of his time to his children and was a good husband to his wife. The expectation for fathers’ roles in the lives of their children was to be the authoritative figure of the household who showed love to his family by devoting the majority of his efforts to working and providing financially. A good father was also deemed to be someone who would bring other experts into the process of childrearing, including doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers.
Fathers were also expected to devote a period of time towards their children. Fathers were recommended to spend one hour per week with their sons. Most advice was directed towards the relationship between a father and his son, which encouraged temperance of a father’s response to questions and spending time with boys playing with and coaching them in sports. This amount of time was recognized to be short, but it was deemed better than not spending time with their children at all. Many labour organizations also argued for shorter work weeks as a means of increasing “family time,” for working-class fathers. Many fathers were unable to increase time spent with their children though due to long work days and work weeks.
Although expectations were high for fathers to be the breadwinners for their family, the economic nature of Canada and lack of support often led to differing results. The job market in the Great Depression often did not allow for fathers to provide for their families on a single income and receiving government assistance was seen as a 'personal failure' by many fathers. Since the identity of a father was so rooted in his ability to match the breadwinner model, the inability for a father to provide financially meant that many father's identities as successful members of the family were challenged. Also, although there was an expectation that fathers should be more gentle and temperate towards their children, fathers were often feared by their children.
In early human history there have been notable instances of father–offspring conflicts. For example:
- Tukulti-Ninurta I (r. 1243–1207 B.C.E.), Assyrian king, was killed by his own son after sacking Babylon.
- Sennacherib (r. 704–681 B.C.E.), Assyrian king, was killed by two of his sons for his desecration of Babylon.
- King Kassapa I (473 to 495 CE) creator of the Sigiriya citadel of ancient Sri Lanka killed his father king Dhatusena for the throne.
- Emperor Yang of Sui in Chinese history allegedly killed his father, Emperor Wen of Sui.
- Beatrice Cenci, Italian noblewoman who, according to legend, killed her father after he imprisoned and raped her. She was condemned and beheaded for the crime along with her brother and her stepmother in 1599.
- Lizzie Borden (1860–1927) allegedly killed her father and her stepmother with an axe in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. She was acquitted, but her innocence is still disputed.
- Iyasus I of Ethiopia (1682–1706), one of the great warrior emperors of Ethiopia, was deposed by his son Tekle Haymanot in 1706 and subsequently assassinated.
In more contemporary history there have also been instances of father–offspring conflicts, such as:
- Chiyo Aizawa murdered her own father who had been raping her for fifteen years, on October 5, 1968, in Japan. The incident changed the Criminal Code of Japan regarding patricide.
- Kip Kinkel (1982- ), an Oregon boy who was convicted of killing his parents at home and two fellow students at school on May 20, 1998.
- Sarah Marie Johnson (1987- ), an Idaho girl who was convicted of killing both parents on the morning of September 2, 2003.
- Dipendra of Nepal (1971–2001) reportedly massacred much of his family at a royal dinner on June 1, 2001, including his father King Birendra, mother, brother, and sister.
- Christopher Porco (1983- ), was convicted on August 10, 2006, of the murder of his father and attempted murder of his mother with an axe.
Psychological manifestations in religion
Sigmund Freud suggested that God concepts are a projection of one's father. Among religions, many deities (typically the supreme or primordial ones) are referred to as "mother goddesses" and allfathers". In monotheistic religions, "God the Father" is one of the titles given to God.
- Baby Daddy – A biological father who bears financial responsibility for a child, but with whom the mother has little or no contact.
- Birth father – the biological father of a child who, due to adoption or parental separation, does not raise the child or cannot take care of one.
- Biological father – or just "Father" is the genetic father of a child
- Posthumous father – father died before children were born (or even conceived in the case of artificial insemination)
- Putative father – unwed man whose legal relationship to a child has not been established but who is alleged to be or claims that he may be the biological father of a child
- Sperm donor – an anonymous or known biological father who donates his sperm to be used in artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation in order to father a child for a third party female. Also used as a slang term meaning "baby daddy".
- Surprise father – where the men did not know that there was a child until possibly years afterward
- Teenage father/youthful father – Father who is still a teenager.
Non-biological (social and legal relationship)
- Adoptive father – the father who has adopted a child
- Cuckolded father – where the child is the product of the mother's adulterous relationship
- DI Dad – social/legal father of children produced via Donor Insemination (where a donor's sperm were used to impregnate the DI Dad's spouse)
- Father-in-law – the father of one's spouse
- Foster father – child is raised by a man who is not the biological or adoptive father usually as part of a couple.
- Mother's partner – assumption that current partner fills father role
- Mother's husband – under some jurisdictions (e.g. in Quebec civil law), if the mother is married to another man, the latter will be defined as the father
- Presumed father – Where a presumption of paternity has determined that a man is a child's father regardless of if he actually is or is not the biological father
- Social father – where a man takes de facto responsibility for a child, such as caring for one who has been abandoned or orphaned (the child is known as a "child of the family" in English law)
- Stepfather – a married non-biological father where the child is from a previous relationship
Fatherhood defined by contact level
- Absent father – father who cannot or will not spend time with his child(ren)
- Second father – a non-parent whose contact and support is robust enough that near parental bond occurs (often used for older male siblings who significantly aid in raising a child)
- Stay-at-home dad – the male equivalent of a housewife with child, where his spouse is breadwinner
- Weekend/holiday father – where child(ren) only stay(s) with father on weekends, holidays, etc.
For some animals, it is the fathers who take care of the young.
- Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma darwini) fathers carry eggs in the vocal pouch.
- Most male waterfowls are very protective in raising their offspring, sharing scout duties with the female. Examples are the geese, swans, gulls, loons, and a few species of ducks. When the families of most of these waterfowls travel, they usually travel in a line and the fathers are usually the ones guarding the offspring at the end of the line while the mothers lead the way.
- The female seahorse (hippocampus) deposits eggs into the pouch on the male's abdomen. The male releases sperm into the pouch, fertilizing the eggs. The embryos develop within the male's pouch, nourished by their individual yolk sacs.
- Male catfish keep their eggs in their mouth, foregoing eating until they hatch.
- Male emperor penguins alone incubate their eggs; females do no incubation. Rather than building a nest, each male protects his egg by balancing it on the tops of his feet, enclosed in a special brood pouch. Once the eggs are hatched however, the females will rejoin the family.
- Male beavers secure their offspring along with the females during their first few hours of their lives. As the young beavers mature, their fathers will teach them how to search for materials to build and repair their own dams, before they disperse to find their own mates.
- Wolf fathers help feed, protect, and play with their pups. In some cases, several generations of wolves live in the pack, giving pups the care of grandparents, aunts/uncles, and siblings, in addition to parents. The father wolf is also the one who does most of the hunting when the females are securing their newborn pups.
- Coyotes are monogamous and male coyotes hunt and bring food to their young.
- Dolphin fathers help in the care of the young. Newborns are held on the surface of the water by both parents until they are ready to swim on their own.
- A number of bird species have active, caring fathers who assist the mothers, such as the waterfowls mentioned above.
- Apart from humans, fathers in few primate species care for their young. Those that do are tamarins and marmosets. Particularly strong care is also shown by siamangs where fathers carry infants after their second year. In titi and owl monkeys fathers carry their infants 90% of the time with "titi monkey infants developing a preference for their fathers over their mothers". Silverback gorillas have less role in the families but most of them serve as an extra protecting the families from harm and sometimes approaching enemies to distract them so that his family can escape unnoticed.
Many species, though, display little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. The male leaves the female soon after mating and long before any offspring are born. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young.
- A male bear leaves the female shortly after mating and will kill and sometimes eat any bear cub he comes across, even if the cub is his. Bear mothers spend much of their cubs' early life protecting them from males. (Many artistic works, such as advertisements and cartoons, depict kindly "papa bears" when this is the exact opposite of reality.)
- Domesticated dog fathers show little interest in their offspring, and unlike wolves, are not monogamous with their mates and are thus likely to leave them after mating.
- Male lions will tolerate cubs, but only allow them to eat meat from dead prey after they have had their fill. A few are quite cruel towards their young and may hurt or kill them with little provocation. A male who kills another male to take control of his pride will also usually kill any cubs belonging to that competing male. However, it is also the males who are responsible for guarding the pride while the females hunt. However the male lions are the only felines that actually have a role in fatherhood.
- Male rabbits generally tolerate kits but unlike the females, they often show little interest in the kits and are known to play rough with their offspring when they are mature, especially towards their sons. This behaviour may also be part of an instinct to drive the young males away to prevent incest matings between the siblings. The females will eventually disperse from the warren as soon as they mature but the father does not drive them off like he normally does to the males.
- Horse stallions and Pig boars have little to no role in parenting, nor are they monogamous with their mates. They will tolerate young to a certain extent, but due to their aggressive male nature, they are generally annoyed by the energetic exuberance of the young, and may hurt or even kill the young. Thus, stud stallions and boars are not kept in the same pen as their young or other females.
Finally, in some species neither the father nor the mother provides any care.
- Putative father
- Paternal bond
- Putative father registry
- Sociology of fatherhood
- Responsible fatherhood
- Father complex
- Fathers' rights movement
- Paternity fraud
- The Guy's Guide to Surviving Pregnancy, Childbirth and the First Year of Fatherhood
- Non-paternity event
- Sperm donation
- Shared Earning/Shared Parenting Marriage
- "Father" can also refer metaphorically to a person who is considered the founder of a body of knowledge or of an institution. In such context the meaning of "father" is similar to that of "founder". See List of persons considered father or mother of a field.
- HUMAN GENETICS, MENDELIAN INHERITANCE retrieved 25 February 2012
- What is paternity leave?
- Mapped: Paid paternity leave across the EU...which countries are the most generous? Published by The Telegraph, 18 April 2016
- Fathers 4 Justice take their fight for rights across the Atlantic Published by The Telegraph, 8 May 2005
- One in 50 British fathers unknowingly raises another man's child Published by The Telegraph, April 6, 2016
- Garfield, CF, Clark-Kauffman, K, David, MM; Clark-Kauffman; Davis (Nov 15, 2006). "Fatherhood as a Component of Men's Health". Journal of the American Medical Association. 19 (19): 2365. doi:10.1001/jama.296.19.2365.
- "Facts for Features". Retrieved October 25, 2013.
- Children Who Have An Active Father Figure Have Fewer Psychological And Behavioral Problems
- United States. National Center for Fathering, Kansas City, MO. Partnership for Family Involvement in Education. A Call to Commitment: Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning. June 2000
- Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers.
- Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: a follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence
- Ribak, Rivka (2001). ""Like immigrants": negotiating power in the face of the home computer". New media & society. 3 (2): 220. doi:10.1177/1461444801003002005.
- James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, vol. 5-6, Robarts, Toronto, 1914
- Jean Markale, La femme Celt/Women of the Celts, Paris, London, New York, 1972
- Jean Przyluski, La Grande Déesse, Payot, Paris, 1950
- Jacques Dupuis, Au nome du pére. Une histoire de la paternité, Lo Rocher, 1987
- Margaret Mead, Male and female, William Morrow & C., New York, 1949
- Bjørnholt, M. (2014). "Changing men, changing times; fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study" (PDF). The Sociological Review. 62 (2): 295–315. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12156.
- Commachio, Cynthia 'A Postscript for Father': Defining a New Fatherhood in Interwar Canada, Canadian Historical Review 78, September 1997, pg. 391
- Edwards, An Old-Fashioned Father, Maclean's, 1 March 1934, 22
- Pines, We Want Perfect Parents, Chanteline, Sept. 1928, 31; Dr W.S. Hall, The Family and Family Life, Canadian Mentor 7, 1925.
- Blatz, W.E. Bott, H.M, Parents and the Preschool Child Toronto: J.M. Dent 1928, pg. 224-5
- MacMurchy, Mother Ottawa: King's Printer, 1928, pg. 15-16,
- Letters from a Schoolmaster, Maclean's, 15 April 1938, 43
- Letters from a Schoolmaster, Maclean's, 15 Feb. 1938,
- Commachio, "A Postscript for Fathers," pg. 404
- Palmer, B. and Kealey, G. Dreaming of What Might Be: The Knights of Labour in Ontario Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1982, 318;
- Changes in the Cost of Living in Canada from 1913 to 1937, Labour Gazette, June 1937, pg. 819-21
- Commachio, Cynthia 'A Postscript for Father': Defining a New Fatherhood in Interwar Canada, Canadian Historical Review 78, September 1997, pg. 394
- Justin Barrett; Frank Keil (1996). "Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism in God Concepts" (PDF). Cognitive Psychology. 31: 219–247. doi:10.1006/cogp.1996.0017.
- Fernandez-Duque, E; Valeggia, CR; Mendoza, SP (2009). "Biology of Paternal Care in Human and Nonhuman Primates". Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 38: 115–30. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-091908-164334.
- Mendoza SP, Mason WA. (1986). Parental division of labour and differentiation of attachments in a monogamous primate (Callicebus moloch). Anim. Behav. 34:1336–47.
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- Marcia C. Inhorn, Wendy Chavkin, and Jose-Alberto Navarro, eds. Globalized Fatherhood by (Berghahn Books; 2014) 419 pages; studies by anthropologists, sociologists, and cultural geographers -
- S. Kraemer (1991) "The Origins of Fatherhood: An Ancient Family Process". Family Process 30 (4), 377–392. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.1991.00377.x
- M.J. Diamond (2007) My Father Before Me; How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout Their Lives. New York: WW Norton.