File photo: Supplied
About 36% of South African children live in the same household as their biological fathers, according to a fathers study compiled by Sonke Gender Justice and the Human Sciences Research Council.

The report, which coincides with the amendments to South Africa’s labour law on parental leave for fathers, highlights the importance of father involvement irrespective of marital or residence status.

Moving away from the ­deficit model of absent fatherhood, the report focused on the involvement of non-resident biological and social fathers in parenting and caregiving.

It found, among others, that 36% of children in South Africa lived in the same household as their biological fathers, while 35% lived in the same household as other men who were not their biological fathers.

The report noted that biological father non-residency did not necessarily indicate fathers being uninvolved.

It said a man may never reside with his biological children; yet he may be integrally involved in the lives of children who may regard him as a father while also supporting members of the extended family in different households.

“When non-resident fathers are involved, it is usually financially by paying for school fees and groceries. When fathers are the primary recipient of the child support grant, they use it for the same child care expenses that mothers do.

“Despite high levels of father non-residency, reported violence and neglect by men, the role of caring fathers in the lives of children and families is very important and undisputed,” the report found.

The study is a continuation of several years of work both organisations have done on increasing support for men’s contribution to gender-equal and non-violent parenting.

The report is affiliated with the MenCare Global Fatherhood campaign, and complements the State of the World’s Fathers reports produced by MenCare.

The report stated that there were no direct figures available on the number of fathers, but it was assumed the number of mothers and fathers were about the same.

Various historical trajectories of fatherhood had also shaped current fathering practices, the report stated, and childcare work, which had historically been in the hands of women, still remains largely understood as women’s work.

“But many men are involved in childcare and men increasingly want to be more involved.

“The history of fatherhood shows that men have historically played an important role in parenting, but often as a lesser partner to wives, mothers, aunts, and domestic workers.”