'Absent breadwinners': father-child connections and paternal support in rural South Africa

SOURCE: Journal of Southern African Studies
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2008
TITLE AUTHOR(S): S.Madhavan, N.W.Townsend, A.I.Garey
KEYWORDS: FATHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIP, FATHERHOOD, HOUSEHOLD INCOME
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9932

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Abstract

The sites for earning a living and for maintaining a family, of production and reproduction, remain geographically separated for many South Africans. Yet the common assumption that only fathers who live with their children provide support for them, substantially underestimates fathers' financial contributions to their children. In this article we examine the association between children's connections to their fathers and paternal support. Using data on 272 children collected as part of a study of Children's Well-Being and Social Connections in the Agincourt sub-district of Mpumalanga, South Africa, we identify three types of connection between children and their fathers and four levels of paternal support. We present empirical evidence on histories of children's residence and support to advance three propositions: first, that children's co-residence with their fathers is neither an accurate nor a sufficient indicator that they are receiving paternal financial support; second, children are as likely to receive financial support from fathers who are not even members of the same household as from fathers with whom they are co-resident and, finally that children who receive support from their fathers for any part of their lives are likely to receive support consistently throughout their lives. These findings underscore the importance of using a more nuanced conceptualisation and more inclusive measurement of father connection and support in order to determine the contributions that men make to their children. Children born since 1991 are significantly less likely to receive support from their fathers than are those born before. This difference is not a reflection of different levels of support for children of different ages but is due to real changes in paternal action.