In contrast to a perceived prevailing opinion in South Africa that fathers are generally unwilling to take responsibility for their children, a Master’s degree study found that most showed a desire and willingness to be involved in their offspring’s lives.
This was the finding of research done by Mr Simphiwe Ngcongo for his Master’s degree in Population Studies.
“When it comes to having an involved father, experiences differ and I was interested in gaining more insight into this,” said Ngcongo.
His research examined the relationship between employment and father involvement, focusing on how employment status affects the involvement of unemployed and employed men with their children.
“Fathers are often perceived as neglectful men who are unwilling to take responsibility for their children – men who impregnate and run away. There is also a prevalent notion that a good father is the one who provides for the child’s financial needs, which often leads to the neglect of other, non-financial fathering responsibilities,” said Ngcongo.
Results from the study show that most fathers have a desire and willingness to be involved in their children’s lives, emphasising the importance of being available for them emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Being a good provider was still found to still influence the way fathers and society perceive fatherhood.
Unemployed fathers cited lack of financial resources as a barrier to improving fatherhood and believed that getting a job would improve their involvement. Working fathers, however, said they were prevented by work commitments from devoting sufficient time to childcare as many have employment away from their homes. Family support played a large role in helping unemployed and employed fathers take on caregiving responsibilities.
Ngcongo’s research discovered that unemployed fathers tended to develop a negative self-image while employed fathers felt a sense of satisfaction, fulfilling the role of a provider and were viewed positively by society. Access to employment, coupled with other social environmental factors influences fathers’ level of involvement with their children.
“There is a need for psycho-educational programmes and studies that emphasise the importance of male involvement in non-financial roles for their children and gender equality to reduce negative social constructs about fatherhood,” suggested Ngcongo.
He will be the first to graduate with a Master’s degree in his family and considers it a huge success for himself and hopes it serves as inspiration for his siblings.
Ngcongo dedicated his degree to his mother Hlengiwe and thanked the rest of his family, friends and supervisor.
He had this advice for students: “Manage your time, set schedules and stick to them so you do not put off your work until the last minute. Familiarise yourself with reading material that will help and contribute to your academic knowledge and ensure you build connections with your fellow students because it’s easier to fail alone but it’s better if you have people to support you when you need help.”
He plans to pursue a PhD.