Why do fathers fail their kids?

2012-03-24 13:19

Many of South African children are growing up in dysfunctional families. Millions of children grow up living without one of their parents. The consequences for young people our country’s future entrepreneurs, workers and leaders may be dire.

More than 20 000 children are affected by divorce each year in South Africa. According to Stats SA, the distribution of the number of children affected by divorce in 2010 shows that 37,9% (7 719) were from the black African population group; 27,6% (5 633) from the white population group, 17,3% (3 529) from the coloured population group and 5,5% (1 113) from the Indian/Asian population group.

According to a 2011 study by the South African Institute of Race Relations only a third of children in South Africa are growing up living with two of their parents, 98 000 children live in child-headed households, 81 percent of whom have a living mother and 9 million children are growing up with absent but living fathers. As in any country, single parenthood arises because of divorce, death or estrangement of a spouse and teenage pregnancy.

According to the study, increasing numbers of fathers are absent, and a ‘crisis of men’ in South Africa seems to be perpetuating patterns of abuse and desertion that will most likely continue with future generations. A racial dimension is also evident in many of the trends associated with family life. African families are more likely to have single parents and absent fathers than other race groups, particularly Indian families.

In South Africa, questions need to be asked about why these trends increase. Issues such as attitudes to parental responsibility and attitudes to monogamy and commitment to relationships need to be publicly discussed, and addressed by broader society. Why do parents, particularly fathers, fail to acknowledge their parental responsibilities? If this is seemingly acceptable to broader society, why is this so? What values are being passed on to our children?

It is not only in South Africa that there seems to be an increase in single-parent families. Also in the UK more couples shun weddings and children are increasingly likely to live with unmarried parents as married ones. In the UK some 8,000 same-sex couples now have children according to the Office for National Statistics, while almost 8million people are living alone.

There is a continuing decline in the popularity of marriage as more relationships break down and fewer couples choose to wed. In the UK over the past decade the number of married couples fell by 262,000 to 12 million, while the number of cohabiting couples rose from 2.1million to 2.9million and there are 1.8 million children living with unmarried partners.

Only 35% of children in South Africa grow up living with both their biological parents. Dysfunctional families are damaging the prospects of younger generations and there is evidence that children from broken families are more likely to have relationship problems and create fractured families themselves in future.

Approximately 40% of children live with their mother only, 3% live with their father only, and 23% live with neither of their biological parents and 8% of children live in ‘skip generation households’ with their grandparents or great aunts and uncles.

There are close to 4 million orphans in South Africa, 859 000 of them are what is termed "double orphans" who have lost both their parents. Many of these children have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. But, nearly half of all children have living but absent fathers, meaning that the HIV/AIDS pandemic alone cannot explain family breakdown in South Africa.

From a marriage point of view people have to rid themselves of the dream that they are going to find a spouse one day who is perfect in every way – physically, emotionally and intellectually, it is simply impossible.

In today’s digital age we live by “remote control”, if we don’t like the channel that we are watching we simply switch channels and watch something more entertaining. Only to find that the new partner is as flawed as the last. Almost like a hydra, cut off one head and get rid of a boring partner but inherit 20 new problems, your new partner’s children, insecurities, family and so on. It may be so that not all second marriages are doomed but the statistics colour a different picture. Family breakdown affects everyone and a break-up shocks the whole foundation of the family and mostly it never recovers.

Bertus Preller

Family Law Attorney

Abrahams and Gross Inc.

Tel: 021 422 1323

Email: info(@)divorceattorney.co.za

Follow on Twitter: @bertuspreller

Blog:  http://www.divorceattorneys.wordpress.com

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