The fatherhood project: final report

OUTPUT TYPE: Research report- client
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 2865

Download this report

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at


The project was prompted by three converging issues related to men and children in South Africa: 1. The very high rates of child sexual abuse, most of which is perpetrated by men. More than 25 000 children are sexually abused each year in South Africa. Few, if any, available programmes to reduce child sexual abuse in South Africa target men, either as individuals or to change norms, including those which inhibit men from preventing other men from sexually abusing children (Richter, Dawes & Higson-Smith, 2004). 2. The absence of men from households and low levels of father support for children's care. According to South Africa's Central Statistics Services (Budlender, 1998), about 42% of children in 1998 lived only with their mother, in comparison to 1% of children who lived only with their father. Findings from a longitudinal birth cohort study in Soweto-Johannesburg show that father support for children, if a couple is not married, is tenuous and grows weaker over time. Only 20% of fathers, who were not married to the child's mother at the time of their birth, were in contact with their children by the time their children reached the age of 11 years (Richter, 2004). Studies in several countries indicate that fewer than half of all maintenance orders are complied with, and indications are that the situation in South Africa is considerably worse (Burman & Berger, 1987). Children living only with their mothers may experience a number of disadvantages, including reaching lower levels of education largely because they spend less time enrolled in school (Anderson, 1990). Increasing men's contact and support for children could considerably improve children's socio-economic circumstances. 3. The increased care needs of children as a result of deaths and family disruption from the AIDS epidemic. The AIDS epidemic is significantly unsettling the care of children as breadwinners and caregivers lose their jobs or are unable to work at home, as they become over-burdened with the care of others, and as they become ill and die (Richter, Manegold & Pather, 2004). Much of the burden of care for children displaced by the impact of AIDS falls to women, including older women. Potentially more South African fathers could step into the breach and care for children. Demographic and Health surveys indicate that South Africa has the lowest rate, in the African countries examined, of maternal orphans living with their surviving parent ? 41% as compared to 65% in Zambia, for example (Ainsworth & Filmer, 2001).