Monday, 18 July 2022

Single Fathers: A Growing and Neglected Population

The number of single-parent families is rising and most of them are headed by single mothers. Nevertheless, single fathers represent a sizeable proportion and are both a growing population and largely understudied since research on single parenthood mostly focuses on single mothers, their greater risk of mortality, poorer self-rated (mental) health and lower socio-economic status. "What do we know about these fathers, and their health and wellbeing? Alarmingly, the answer is: not very much."

40.000 people (single and partnered fathers, single and parthnered mothers) took part in the Canadian Community Health Survey. Single fathers - after a median follow-up of eleven years - were more likely to die than single or partnered mothers or partnered fathers. Their mortality risk was more than two times higher than other parents'. Single fathers were also more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles (eating fruit and vegetables, binge drinking).
Interestingly, the study could not determine the leading cause of death. This might partly be due to the fact that there are differences in the pathways leading to single parenthood. Single fathers, for instance, were more likely to be separated, divorced or widowed compared to single mothers. The latter could point to grief and a specific stress exposure. Gender stereotypes, stigma and social support usually more availabe for single mothers may be further factors. 
We need to take single fatherhood much more seriously as a public health issue. Understanding the way families have evolved and are likely to evolve is crucial to meet their needs and for policy planning. Families do not exist in a vacuum. They depend on the social and economic environments around them. Issues of isolation (real or perceived) and grief may be as important for health as traditional risk factors. We need to ensure that there is better community and social support for single fathers. Social and life circumstances of single parents are crucial to getting the fuller picture of their health. (via)        
- - - - - - - - - -
- Editorial (2018). Single fathers: neglected, growing, and important. The Lancet, 3(3), link
- photograph of Robert Redford with his daughter Shauna, 1969 via