Fathers matter. Father–child relationships, in all communities and at all stages of a child’s life, have profound and wide-ranging impacts on children that last a lifetime, whether these relationships are positive, negative, or lacking. Men’s participation as fathers and as caregivers also matters tremendously for women’s lives. And, it positively affects the lives of men themselves.
Approximately 80 percent of men will become biological fathers at some point in their lives, and virtually all men have some connection to children – as relatives, as teachers, as coaches, or simply as community members. Whether they are biological fathers, stepfathers, adoptive or foster fathers, or legal guardians; whether they are brothers, uncles, or grandfathers; whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships; and whether they live with their children or not, men’s participation in the daily care of others has a lasting influence on the lives of children, women, and men, and an enduring impact on the world around them.
To achieve full gender equality and maximum well-being for children, we must move beyond rigid, limiting definitions of fatherhood and motherhood and move toward what children need most to thrive.
This is not merely a question of encouraging men to be nurturing and caring. This is an issue of social and economic justice.
Changes are needed in policies, in systems and institutions, among service providers, within programming, and within data collection and analysis efforts.
Massive changes in the workplace and in households are bringing changes to men’s participation as caregivers – that is, the state of the world’s fathers is changing. Yet, men’s involvement in caregiving has too often been missing from public policies, from systematic data collection and research, and from efforts to promote women’s empowerment.
FINDINGS (State of the World’s Fathers Report):
Involved fatherhood helps children thrive.
Involved fatherhood allows women and girls to achieve their full potential – now and in future generations.
Involved fatherhood makes men happier and healthier.
Men’s involvement in caregiving is increasing in some parts of the world, but nowhere does it equal that of women.
Fathers want to spend more time with their children.
Men’s participation and support are urgently needed to ensure that all children are wanted children.
Engaging men – in ways that women want – early on in pre-natal visits, in childbirth, and immediately after the birth of a child can bring lasting benefits.
Promoting fathers’ involvement must include efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence.
Children, women, and men benefit when fathers take parental leave.
Men’s greater involvement in care work also brings economic benefits.