Gatekeeping and its impact on father involvement among black South Africans in rural KwaZulu-Natal
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Involved and caring fatherhood contributes to the health and wellbeing of children, women and men. The corollary is also true - men, women and children are affected when fathers are not involved or supportive of their children. Many factors affect fathers' involvement, including women's attitudes, the history and nature of the relationship between mother and father, and the cultural context. This study explores gatekeeping and its impact on father involvement among Black South Africans in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Among married couples, gatekeeping occurs with respect to childcare and housework through women's attempts to validate their maternal identity according to socially and culturally constructed gender roles. Among unmarried, non-resident parents, women control father-child contact and involvement, with mothers and/or their families either facilitating or inhibiting father involvement. In this context, we found that cultural gatekeeping had a huge impact on father involvement, with the non-payment of inhlawulo or lobola regulating father-child involvement. In a country like South Africa, where there is high non-marital fertility and father-child nonresidence, future research, parenting and family programmes should focus on strategies that encourage positive paternal involvement as well as maternal and cultural support for father involvement, regardless of parental relationship and residence status.
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