Are Dads really that bad?

Young fathers often get a bad reputation. They are seen as irresponsible and leave mothers to look after children by themselves, sometimes claiming not to be the father at all. But Student Parents look into what it’s really like being a student father, and the problems they face.

According to the government, young fathers leaving home have caused the ‘moral collapse’ of the country. David Cameron said after the August riots, “I don’t doubt that many of the rioters out last week have no father at home.” Young fathers initiative, a charity that provides information and support for young fathers, state on their website that if fathers are more involved, children are more likely to do well in school and less likely to be involved in crime.

The Statistics: 

In 2002, 20% of families in the UK were single parent families. 18% of these with single parent families with mothers, 2% were single parent families with fathers. By 2021, it is expected 35% of families with be single parent families.

In 2011, 25% of families were single parent families.

Research has also recently been published in America about fatherless families. It found that families where the Dad was not around, there was a highly increased chance of children going to jail, committing suicide, having behavioural disorders and dropping out of school.

Fathers are undoubtedly an important part of a child’s life. But for student parents who are still in school, fathers are unable to live with their children by law:

-If you are under 16, you cannot live independently from your parents or guardian or receive any benefits for your child.

-If you are 16-18, you can only get your own benefits under special circumstances and by law you cannot rent your own flat without your parent’s permission. If you do rent without their permission they can take legal action against you.

Often this means the child will live with the mother, and the father is expected to pay 15% of his income towards the child. Even if the father is a student and earns no money, or receives no benefits for himself, he is still expected to contribute. If he refuses to pay, money can be taken straight from where he works from his pay check, and fathers can have their driving license or other items taken off them.

How are young fathers affected?

The Young Father’s Initiative, along with other charities such as Fatherhood Institute, want to change people’s attitudes to young Dads. They say fathers are misunderstood. They become irresponsible and inattentive because people assume they will be, and with no proper education on being a Dad, they are incapable.

YFI say:

-Fathers have issues connecting with their baby when they are young because they have not learnt how to look after them. They are scared they will drop their baby or do something wrong. Because of this, they do not spend as much time with their babies as they should.

– Fathers can learn to be a parent just as quickly as mothers, though there is an illusion that mothers are born with a natural maternal instinct. The young fathers website says this is not true, but comes more from girls engaging in more ‘caring’ play, for example playing with dolls when they are younger.

-A lot of fathers told the website they felt ignored and dismissed by the midwife. Professional figures do not expect young fathers to take an interest and the midwife can often ignore the father during birth because they have to concentrate a lot on the mother. Young fathers do not understand this and feel left out of the birth.

-Often the mother’s parents can be angry with the young father and in response the young fathers do not handle it well. Both parties cause problems but often the blame is laid with the young fathers.

-After birth, many mothers do not want sex for hormonal reasons, or because of issues with the birth. Young fathers often do not understand this, and think the mothers are not paying them attention. They do not have people to talk to about quite a sensitive issue when they are so young, and do not handle it well.

-Most fathers told young fathers initiative that, although they knew they needed support, they didn’t want to ask for it. They did not want to appear stupid and would rather find out more without having to ask anyone.

What help is out there?

There are a number of charities and agencies set up to help struggling fathers. Many of them you can ring up and you don’t need to give your name, or you can just say a fake name, and they will listen to you without judgement. Below are links to national websites, but there will be agencies more local to you as well:

Expectant Fathers:

The Expectant Father course, set up by Working with men and YFI, provides four 2-hour sessions over the space of a month, which teach fathers how to prepare for a new baby. In between sessions, fathers are given reading, and there is a follow up session 6 weeks after the baby is born to see how the father is coping.

All the courses are free and take place in 4 hospitals around London. For more information or to book a course, CLICK HERE and download the PDF named Expectant Fathers Course.



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