Absent parents, do we abandon our children?

2013-11-30 06:48

In a recent report by Statistics South Africa it was found that there are 5 295 283 children in South Africa aged below five years of age. In the report it is observed that most young children lived with their biological mothers only (between 40% and 44%), followed by those who lived with both their parents (between 34% and 40%). Those who did not live with their biological parents were between 17% and 22%.

While the majority of young children from the white (86,5%) and the Indian/Asian (77,5%) population groups lived with both their biological parents, 53,5% of those from the coloured population group lived with both their biological parents and only 31,0% of black African children lived with both their biological parents. Most young black African children lived with only their biological mother (45,6%) and 21,0% of them lived with neither parent.

A total of about half of mothers who were living with their young biological children were legally married or were living together with their partners as married.  However, most mothers of young children (48,4%) had never married. On the other hand, the majority of fathers who lived with their young biological children were either legally married or living together as married.

The main finding of this report was that about 20% of young children did not live with their biological parents in the same household, although the majority of the parents were still alive.

South Africa has a long history of children not living consistently in the same dwelling with their biological parents because of poverty, labour migration, educational opportunities or cultural practices. This is against Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Separation from Parents), which states that “children have the right to live with their parent(s), unless it is bad for them”.

The results further indicated that mothers who lived with their young biological children were mostly never married while the majority of fathers were legally married. Willey et al. (2009) found positive growth outcomes among children of mothers who were married or were cohabiting with a partner. It is a fact that children were significantly less vulnerable to poverty if their mother was married or was cohabiting with a partner. These findings demonstrate the benefits of having both parents in the household as parents provide a major source of social and economic support in children’s lives.

South Africa has a history of the absence of fathers in their children’s lives. In the recorded live births it was indicated that details of the fathers were missing in 66,6% of birth registrations (Stats SA, 2013).

Only 4 out of 10 black children under the age of 15 live with their fathers and the other 6 do not have regular contact with their fathers and 3 have absolutely no contact with their fathers. There are a number of reasons why fathers do not have contact with their children, either because the fathers are unable to provide for financially, are alienated from seeing them, or because the parents relationship severed.

The “So we are ATM fathers” study was released recently and was done by the Centre for Social Development in Africa. The researchers wanted to understand what motivated the fathers decisions to be absent fathers, what fatherhood meant to them and what they felt were the causes and consequences of being absent fathers.

The study found that one of the major contributing factors to fathers being absent was finances, and, in the case of the fathers interviewed, their inability to provide it. In a South African context, fathers were primarily represented as providers. Those who therefore could not provide would shy away from their responsibilities and their children it was found.

The research revealed that while only 30% of black children under the age of 15 live with their fathers, more than 50% of coloured children and more than 80% of white and Indian children under the age of 15 live with their fathers.

Many young men struggle in the role of a father because they never had this role model growing up.

Children are our future. What happens to children in their first years of life affects their development, the development of our society, and the development of our world.” (Bernard van Leer Foundation)

Compiled by:

Bertus Preller

Family Law Attorney

Website: http://www.divorcelaws.co.za

Twitter: @bertuspreller

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/divorceattorneys

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