Definitions

biological-father

Father

[fah-ther]

The father is defined as the male parent of an offspring. The adjective "paternal" refers to father, parallel to "maternal" for mother. According to the anthropologist Maurice Godelier, the parental role assumed by human males is a critical difference between human society and that of humans' closest biological relatives - chimpanzees and bonobos - who appear to be unaware of their "father" connection.

The father-child relationship is the defining factor of the fatherhood role. "Fathers who are able to develop into responsible parents are able to engender a number of significant benefits for themselves, their communities, and most importantly, their children. Active father figures have a key role to play in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women. For example, children who experience significant father involvement tend to exhibit higher scores on assessments of cognitive development, enhanced social skills and fewer behavior problems. An increased amount of father-child involvement has also proven to increase a child's social stability, educational achievement, and even their potential to have a solid marriage as an adult. The children are also more curious about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills. Children who were raised without fathers perceive themselves to be less cognitively and physically competent than their peers from father-present families. Mothers raising children without fathers reported more severe disputes with their child. Sons raised without fathers showed more feminine but no less masculine characteristics of gender role behavior.

The father is often seen as an authority figure. According to Deleuze, the father authority exercises repression over sexual desire. A common observation among scholars is that the authority of the father and of the [political] leader are closely intertwined, that there is a symbolic identification between domestic authority and national political leadership. In this sense, links have been shown between the concepts of "patriarchal", "paternalistic", "cult of personality", "fascist", "totalitarian", "imperial". The fundamental common grounds between domestic and national authority, are the mechanisms of naming (exercise the authority in someone's name) and identification. In a patriarchal society, authority typically uses such rhetoric of fatherhood and family to implement their rule and advocate its legitimacy.

In the Roman and aristocratic patriarchal family, "the husband and the father had a measure of political authority and served as intermediary between the household and the polity. In Western culture patriarchy and authority have been synonymous. In the 19th century Europe, the idea was common, among both traditionalist and revolutionaries, that the authority of the domestic father should "be made omnipotent in the family so that it becomes less necessary in the state". In the second part of that century, there was an extension of the authority of the husband over his wife and the authority of the father over his children, including "increased demands for absolute obedience of children to the father". Europe saw the rise of "new ideological hegemony of the nuclear family form and a legal codification of patriarchy", which was contemporary with the solid spread of the "nation-state model as political norm of order".

Like mothers, human fathers may be categorised according to their biological, social or legal relationship with the child. Historically, the biological relationship paternity has been determinative of fatherhood. However, proof of paternity has been intrinsically problematic and so social rules often determined who would be regarded as a father, e.g. the husband of the mother.

This method of the determination of fatherhood has persisted since Roman times in the famous sentence: Mater semper certa; pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant (Mother is always certain; the father is whom the marriage shows). The historical approach has been destabilised with the recent emergence of accurate scientific testing, particularly DNA testing. As a result, the law on fatherhood is undergoing rapid changes. In the United States, the Uniform Parentage Act essentially defines a father as a man who conceives a child through sexual intercourse.

The most familiar English terms for father include dad, daddy, papa, pop and pa. Other colloquial expressions include my old man.

Categories

  • Natural/Biological father - the most common category: child product of man and woman
  • Birth father - the biological father of a child who, due to adoption or parental separation, does not raise the child
  • Surprise father - where the men did not know that there was a child until possibly years afterwards
  • Posthumous father - father died before children were born (or even conceived in the case of artificial insemination)
  • Teenage father/youthful father - may be associated with premarital sexual intercourse
  • Non-parental father - unmarried father whose name does not appear on child's birth certificate: does not have legal responsibility but continues to have financial responsibility (UK)
  • Sperm donor father - a genetic connection but man does not have legal or financial responsibility if conducted through licensed clinics

Non-biological (social / legal relationship between father and child)

  • Stepfather - wife has child from previous relationship
  • Father-in-law - the father of one's spouse
  • Adoptive father - child is adopted(not of their blood)
  • Foster father - child is raised by a man who is not the biological or adoptive father usually as part of a couple.
  • Cuckolded father - where child is the product of the mother's adulterous relationship
  • Social father - where man takes de facto responsibility for a child (in such a situation the child is known as a "child of the family" in English law)
  • Mothers's partner - assumption that current partner fills father role
  • Mothers's husband - under some jurisdictions (e.g. in Quebec civil law), if the mother is married to another man, the latter will be defined as the father
  • DI Dad - social / legal father of children produced via Donor Insemination where a donor's sperm were used to impregnate the DI Dad's spouse.

Fatherhood defined by contact level with child

  • Weekend/holiday father - where child(ren) only stay(s) with father at weekends, holidays, etc.
  • Absent father - father who cannot or will not spend time with his child(ren)
  • Second father - a non-parent whose contact and support is robust enough that near parental bond occurs (often used for older male siblings who significantly aid in raising a child).
  • Stay at home dad - the male equivalent of a housewife with child
  • Where man in couple originally seeking IVF treatment withdraws consent before fertilisation (UK)
  • Where the apparently male partner in an IVF arrangement turns out to be legally a female (evidenced by birth certificate) at the time of the treatment (UK) (TLR 1st June 2006)

A biological child of a man who, for the special reason above, is not their legal father, has no automatic right to financial support or inheritance. Legal fatherlessness refers to a legal status and not to the issue of whether the father is now dead or alive.

See also

Father can also refer metaphorically to a person who is considered the founder of a body of knowledge or of an institution. In such context the meaning of "father" is similar to that of "founder". See List of people known as the father or mother of something.

References

Bibliography

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