Every child needs a father they can rely on emotionally, financially, socially, intellectually, spiritually, physically – in all aspects of life, for the rest of their lives. This is not the case however as some children end up fatherless due to different reasons. Only 68% of children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, will spend their entire childhood with an intact family. An article based on the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 19.7 million children, which is more than 1 in 4 children in America, do not have a father present in the home (National Fatherhood Initiative). The USA has the highest number of fatherless families in the world. Approximately 24 million children, which is an estimated 34% of all children, go to sleep in a home without a father.


Between the years 1960 and 2000, the number of children brought up by single mothers tripled from 5.1 million to 16.2 million. In addition, there are about 1.8 million men who are ‘solo’ fathers. This accounts for less than 6.0% of all fathers. In Australia, 94% of children between 0 and 17 years of age live with at least one of their parents. After divorce and separation, more than one-third of the children do not see their fathers. Only 17% of the kids have day-only access to their fathers. 48% of fathers who are separated have overnight care of their children. Fathers who have no face-to-face contact with their children account for 36%.


For countries in Europe, 15% of homes with children were single-parent homes. Denmark and Estonia had the highest proportions of single-parent homes among homes with kids at 29% and 28% respectively. They were followed closely by Lithuania and Sweden whose proportion stood at 25%. Latvia, the United Kingdom, and France had 23%, 22% and 21% respectively. In contrast, the lowest proportions of single-parent homes were in Croatia which was 6% of all homes with dependent children, followed by Romania at 7%. Greece, Slovakia and Finland took up 8%. In an article written in 2017, Britain faced the “fatherlessness crisis” whereby almost half of the children born then would not be living in two-parent homes by the time they got to 15 years of age.


In Africa, the situation is similar. The World Bank estimates that in Kenya, approximately 36% of households are female-led. Studies on other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa show a similar trend. South Africa, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania have 36%, 30%, 27% and 24% of households headed by a single parent, mostly women.


The role of the father in the traditional African context has undergone significant shifts over the years. Pre-Colonial times, the father played a background role, influencing the growth and development of children through their mothers, as well as playing a socialization role by exposing sons to their craft through an apprentice type arrangement. As such, they had a more direct influence on their sons as opposed to their daughters. In a patriarchal and hierarchical society, the father is at the pinnacle. His presence gives legitimacy and acceptability to the family, bestowing on them acceptance by society and predisposing them to succeed.


Colonialism brought a shift in the traditional gender roles and labour division in the family. Traditionally, men were responsible for tilling the fields, tending livestock, hunting for food and protection from external aggression. Through semi-education the colonialists took men away from these roles in the home to prepare them for roles in the colonial administration and work on settler farms. Women were then forced to fill in the roles played by their men, limiting the father’s role to mainly financial provision.