Tuesday Light Reading: UN’s ‘Men in Families and Family Policy in a Changing World’
The UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs published a report over the weekend entitled “Men in Families and Family Policy in a Changing World” – that frankly, we’re still trying to get through. It’s not exactly exciting reading, but it’s immensely important for fathers. The long-and-the-short of it is that the UN acknowledges that the landscape of fatherhood is changing, and so to must the definitions of fatherhood.
Some of this report makes perfect sense, while other parts tend to bring up more than it is able to sustain or prove – even in its 200+ pages. Still, this report is an important one – it shows that an international body is actively thinking about the role and responsibility of a father – and the role and responsibility of society to recognize a father as a biological and sociologically significant factor in a child’s life past conception. OMG, we’re actually starting to sound smart here. Look out, legitimate news sites!
Continue on for insights and excepts sure to make your man-parts tingle.
Some of the finer points of the report cover issues dealing with fathers’ involvements as impacted by and as a result of more women entering the workforce. Men spending more time at home because of shared caregiving, part-time and home-based employment is discussed, along with divorce issues – including bangers like “divorced Swedish men with no children had higher relative rates of mortality than men with one or two children.”
Where the report tends to ramble off-base is in the existence and role of the “social father,” which in the report, describes other male, non-biological-father role models such as uncles, brothers, cousins and step-fathers. While other male role models undeniably play a part in social and psychological gender development, detractors of the “social father” standpoint, like director of policy at Families Need Fathers, Becky Jarvis (quoted in The Guardian article linked below), say that pointing to a social father with the same weight as a biological one cheapens the importance of a permanent paternal relationship. But in context, the report refers to the social father more as a phenomena in non-US countries (unless I missed something, which is entirely possible). Still, it’s important for studies to acknowledge that a biological father does indeed give his child more than DNA.
The most promising thing that the UN report discusses is the potential to recognize fathers as influential in more than his child’s life – but in “children, women and future generations of fathers.” Just before this line, the report admits that fathers’ contributions are “seldom encouraged or acknowledged,” and so more needs to be done in that absence.
The report admits its own shortcomings on the topic of domestic violence, where, among discussion of female-victim domestic violence, they admit that because so few studies have looked at family violence concerning both genders. Because of this, there is not enough evidence with respect to intimate-partner violence against men. This is, of course, a much disputed topic – and one that needs international attention.
If we haven’t scared you away with all the heavy talk, you can grab the doc on the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs website. It’s 209 pages. Get your Kindle or Nook ready and hunker down, dudes. Here’s the kind of thing you’re in for:
However, important social trends have fundamentally changed the sociocultural contexts in which this conception of fatherhood prevailed (Tamis-LeMonda and Cabrera, 1999; Cabrera and others, 2000). Increased female labour-force participation in many countries (see table II.1), has been accompanied by a shift in the conception of fatherhood. Men are beginning to share household chores with their employed female partners and are providing care for children. Conceptions of fatherhood have also changed owing to the absence of biological fathers from the lives of their children as a result of death, migration for employment or divorce or separation (Posel and Devey, 2006; Richter and Panday, 2006) and the presence of non-biological fathers in children’s lives (Mkhize, 2004). The increases in female-headed households, delays and declines in marriage, attitudinal shifts about gender, and increased cultural diversity all over the world have affected family life and influenced the nature of father involvement. For example, as a result of delayed marriages, the proportion of women who were not married in age group 20-24 in Bangladesh increased from 4.6 per cent to 18.5 per cent between 1970 and 2000 (De Silva, 2003).
Whew. It’s all terribly interesting reading, but it’s also really difficult to follow. Proof that the report is also about women.
Sauce: The Guardian