Parental Advice by Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans,  created 1831–1888
Parental Advice by Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans, created 1831–1888

A father is the male parent of a child. Besides the paternal bonds of a father to his children, the father may have a parental, legal, and social relationship with the child that carries with it certain rights and obligations. An adoptive father is a male who has become the child's parent through the legal process of adoption. A biological father is the male genetic contributor to the creation of the infant, through sexual intercourse or sperm donation. A biological father may have legal obligations to a child not raised by him, such as an obligation of monetary support. A putative father is a man whose biological relationship to a child is alleged but has not been established. A stepfather is a male who is the husband of a child's mother and they may form a family unit, but who generally does not have the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent in relation to the child.

The adjective "paternal" refers to a father and comparatively to "maternal" for a mother. The verb "to father" means to procreate or to sire a child from which also derives the noun "fathering". Biological fathers determine the sex of their child through a sperm cell which either contains an X chromosome (female), or Y chromosome (male).[1] Related terms of endearment are dad (dada, daddy), baba, papa, pappa, papasita, (pa, pap) and pop. A male role model that children can look up to is sometimes referred to as a father-figure.

Paternal rights

The paternity rights of a father with regard to his children differ widely from country to country often reflecting the level of involvement and roles expected by that society.

Paternity leave

Parental leave is when a father takes time off to support his newly born or adopted baby.[2] Paid paternity leave first began in Sweden in 1976, and is paid in more than half of European Union countries.[3] In the case of male same-sex couples the law often makes no provision for either one or both fathers to take paternity leave.

Child custody

Fathers' rights movements such as Fathers 4 Justice argue that family courts are biased against fathers.[4]

Child support

Child support is an ongoing periodic payment made by one parent to the other; it is normally paid by the parent who does not have custody.

Paternity fraud

An estimated 2% of British fathers experiences paternity fraud during a non-paternity event, bringing up a child they wrongly believe to be their biological offspring.[5]

Role of the father

Father and child, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Father and child, Dhaka, Bangladesh

In almost all cultures fathers are regarded as secondary caregivers[citation needed]. This perception is slowly changing with more and more fathers becoming primary caregivers, while mothers go to work, or in single parenting situations and male same-sex parenting couples.

Fatherhood in the Western World

A father and his children in Florida
A father and his children in Florida

In the West, the image of the married father as the primary wage-earner is changing. The social context of fatherhood plays an important part in the well-being of men and their children.[6] In the United States 16% of single parents were men as of 2013.[7]

Importance of father or father-figure

Involved fathers offer developmentally specific provisions to their children and are impacted themselves by doing so. Active father figures may play a role in reducing behavior and psychological problems in young adults.[8] An increased amount of father–child involvement may help increase a child's social stability, educational achievement,[9]: 5  and their potential to have a solid marriage as an adult. Their children may also be more curious about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills.[10] Children who were raised with fathers perceive themselves to be more cognitively and physically competent than their peers without a father.[11] Mothers raising children together with a father reported less severe disputes with their child.[12]

The father-figure is not always a child's biological father and some children will have a biological father as well as a step- or nurturing father. When a child is conceived through sperm donation, the donor will be the "biological father" of the child.

Fatherhood as legitimate identity can be dependent on domestic factors and behaviors. For example, a study of the relationship between fathers, their sons, and home computers found that the construction of fatherhood and masculinity required that fathers display computer expertise.[13]

Determination of parenthood

Paternal love (1803) by Nanette Rosenzweig, National Museum in Warsaw
Paternal love (1803) by Nanette Rosenzweig, National Museum in Warsaw

Roman law defined fatherhood as "Mater semper certa; pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant" ("The [identity of the] mother is always certain; the father is whom the marriage vows indicate"). The recent emergence of accurate scientific testing, particularly DNA testing, has resulted in the family law relating to fatherhood experiencing rapid changes.

History of fatherhood

Painter Carl Larsson playing with his laughing daughter Brita
Painter Carl Larsson playing with his laughing daughter Brita

Many male animals do not participate in the rearing of their young. The development of human men as creatures which are involved in their offspring's upbringing took place during the stone age.[14]

In medieval and most of modern European history, caring for children was predominantly the domain of mothers, whereas fathers in many societies provide for the family as a whole. Since the 1950s, social scientists and feminists have increasingly challenged gender roles in Western countries, including that of the male breadwinner. Policies are increasingly targeting fatherhood as a tool of changing gender relations.[15] Research from various societies suggest that since the middle of the 20th century fathers have become increasingly involved in the care of their children.[16][17][18][19]


In early human history there have been notable instances of patricide. For example:

In more contemporary history there have also been instances of father–offspring conflicts, such as:


Biological fathers

Paternal bonding between a father and his newborn daughter
Paternal bonding between a father and his newborn daughter
Father and son
Father and son
Emperor Pedro II of Brazil with his daughter Isabel, Princess Imperial c. 1870. She acted as regent of the Empire of Brazil for three times during her father's absences abroad.[20]
Emperor Pedro II of Brazil with his daughter Isabel, Princess Imperial c. 1870. She acted as regent of the Empire of Brazil for three times during her father's absences abroad.[20]

Non-biological (social and legal relationship)

Fatherhood defined by contact level

Non-human fatherhood

For some animals, it is the fathers who take care of the young.

Many species,[citation needed] though, display little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. The male leaves the female soon after mating and long before any offspring are born. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young.

Finally, in some species neither the father nor the mother provides any care.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ HUMAN GENETICS, MENDELIAN INHERITANCE Archived 2000-10-27 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 25 February 2012
  2. ^ "What is paternity leave?". Archived from the original on 2020-06-14. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  3. ^ Mapped: Paid paternity leave across the EU...which countries are the most generous? Archived 2017-11-24 at the Wayback Machine Published by The Telegraph, 18 April 2016
  4. ^ Fathers 4 Justice take their fight for rights across the Atlantic Archived 2018-12-10 at the Wayback Machine Published by The Telegraph, 8 May 2005
  5. ^ One in 50 British fathers unknowingly raises another man's child Archived 2019-03-21 at the Wayback Machine Published by The Telegraph, April 6, 2016
  6. ^ Garfield, CF, Clark-Kauffman, K, David, MM; Clark-Kauffman; Davis (Nov 15, 2006). "Fatherhood as a Component of Men's Health". Journal of the American Medical Association. 296 (19): 2365–8. doi:10.1001/jama.296.19.2365. PMID 17105800.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Facts for Features". Archived from the original on April 24, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  8. ^ McLanahan, Sara; Tach, Laura; Schneider, Daniel (2013), "The Causal Effects of Father Absence", Annual Review of Sociology, 39: 399–427, doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-071312-145704, PMC 3904543, PMID 24489431
  9. ^ Karberg, Elizabeth; Finocharo, Jane; Vann, Nigel (2019). "Father and Child Well-Being: A Scan of Current Research" (PDF). National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  10. ^ United States. National Center for Fathering, Kansas City, MO. Partnership for Family Involvement in Education. A Call to Commitment: Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning Archived 2020-02-17 at the Wayback Machine. June 2000
  11. ^ Golombok, S; Tasker, F; Murray, C (1997). "Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers". J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 38 (7): 783–91. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01596.x. PMID 9363577.
  12. ^ MacCallum, Fiona; Golombok, Susan (2004). "Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: A follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence". Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 45 (8): 1407–1419. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00324.x. PMID 15482501.
  13. ^ Ribak, Rivka (2001). ""Like immigrants": negotiating power in the face of the home computer". New Media & Society. 3 (2): 220–238. doi:10.1177/1461444801003002005. S2CID 8179638.
  14. ^ Betuel, Emma. "Why ancient men had to evolve from carousers to doting dads — or die". Inverse.
  15. ^ Bjørnholt, M. (2014). "Changing men, changing times; fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study" (PDF). The Sociological Review. 62 (2): 295–315. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12156. S2CID 143048732. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-10-21. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  16. ^ University of California, Irvine (September 28, 2016). "Today's parents spend more time with their kids than moms and dads did 50 years ago". Science Daily. Retrieved November 3, 2020.
  17. ^ Livingston, Gretchen; Parker, Kim (19 June 2019). "8 facts about American dads". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  18. ^ Blamires, Diana; Kirkham, Sophie (17 August 2005). "Fathers play greater role in childcare". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  19. ^ Huerta, Maria C.; Adema, Willem; Baxter, Jennifer; Han, Wen-Jui; Lausten, Mette; Lee, RaeHyuck; Waldfogel, Jane (16 December 2014). "Fathers' Leave and Fathers' Involvement: Evidence from Four OECD Countries". European Journal of Social Security. 16 (4): 308–346. doi:10.1177/138826271401600403. ISSN 1388-2627. PMC 5415087. PMID 28479865.
  20. ^ Sciulo, Marília Mara (14 November 2021). "Princesa Isabel: 6 fatos para entender o papel da regente na história" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  21. ^ a b Fernandez-Duque, E; Valeggia, CR; Mendoza, SP (2009). "Biology of Paternal Care in Human and Nonhuman Primates". Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 38: 115–30. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-091908-164334. S2CID 51896336.
  22. ^ Mendoza, SP; Mason, WA (1986). "Parental division of labour and differentiation of attachments in a monogamous primate (Callicebus moloch)". Anim. Behav. 34 (5): 1336–47. doi:10.1016/s0003-3472(86)80205-6. S2CID 53159072.