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When he denies being the father of your child

By Faeza
08 August 2016

Pregnancy is supposed to be wonderful, but for Bulelwa Khoza*, finding out that she had a baby on the way became a nightmare after her boyfriend disappeared from her life and denied that he was the baby’s father.


According to Mandisa Muruge, a counselling social worker at Family LIfe Centre (Famsa Joburg), there are various reasons that will make a father deny paternity. “In most cases, fathers who deny their children have trust issues, or are simply running away from their responsibilities. Others might not be ready to be a parent and thus feel that the woman is trapping them with a baby, and the only way out for him is if he denies paternity,” she says, adding that some men deny paternity “because they are already in committed relationships with other people.” Teenage fathers often deny their children because they fear telling their families.


When a man denies his child, the woman is left alone, and often blame themselves for the pregnancy. “The first thought may be to terminate the pregnancy because the woman could be thinking about how she is going to raise the child alone and how her family will react to the pregnancy. Secondly, she may feel rejected and become stressed. She also may blame herself for sleeping with the man,” Mandisa explains.


“Paternity denial does not only have a negative effect on the mother, it affects the child because some rejected mothers tend to use the children in their fights with the father,” says Mandisa. “When angry, the mother may deny the child the right to know who the father is. This may cause the child to have many questions and lead to resentment towards the father.”


Women are not the only people who have to deal with the trauma. Men like Teboho Diale* have happily raised children that turn out to be not theirs. According to clinical psychologist, Brad Kallenbach, it is a nightmare for a man to be emotionally invested in a child who turns out to be someone else’s. “Relationships are about an emotional, rather than a genetic, bond,” explains Brad.

“That said, depending on the individual and the nature of the relationship with the child, initially, fathers might react with shock, denial, confusion, anger, shame, a sense of rejection, a sense of betrayal and feelings of resentment. Fathers may also begin to question the meaning and value of the relationship with the child. “These factors contribute to the possibility for healing and ultimately, acceptance. They also determine the extent to which fathers will continue investing in the relationship,” says Brad.


“Some fathers use this knowledge as an opportunity to re-evaluate and ultimately, strengthen the relationship,” Brad says. “Others may feel both traumatised and enraged, and attempt to process their feelings of anger, betrayal and shame by taking legal action against a potentially adulterous partner.”

“A loss of self-esteem or feelings of disempowerment may arise from the fact that he is not the biological father of the child. If a father interprets this knowledge to mean that he is a fool who was taken advantage of, his self-esteem may be injured,” says Brad. “If, however, the realisation compels him to rediscover the meaning of his relationship with the child, it may be an opportunity for growth. For some, this knowledge may be a reason to invest further. For others it might be a reason to distance themselves from the child.” * Not their real names



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