This paper is based upon primary, secondary data, review of literatures and own field observation. It accumulated our past and present experiences in social development sector. While we were student of social work we found some isstes related to parenting/ responsibilities of fatherhood for a healthy family, child support etc. during field practicum. Similarly, during professional carrier we gather so many information from the fields through unstructured interviews with school going and non-school going children (age 10-19/20 years old), parents / care givers/ guardians on 'concepts of fatherhood, 'Role of father in a family; 'child support' etc. This paper attempts to explore that the ideal father is a person involved in childcare, who sacrifices himself (like the mother) placing more value on bringing up the child and spending time with him/her than on his own goals and life aspirations. More realistic expectations require that the father should provide psychological support, care and security, and take decisions concerning the child. In their own and their wives' opinion, however; fathers more often take the responsibility for participating in shared pleasures, transportation (driving/fetching children to/from kindergarten, school, after-school activities), more rarely for going for walks or doing homework. It also focuses on the rationale of national policy on family in India and the United Nations Commissions for Child Rights (UNCRC). At the same time this paper has suggested some recommendations to overcome the issues regarding fatherhood and rights of child.
Key Words: Fatherhood, Rights of Child, Child Support, Care, Security
The importance of family as a social institution cannot be over emphasized. This is because the family is the basic unit of society and performs significant socioeconomic functions for its members and the society as a whole. In spite of the many recent changes in society that have altered its role and functions, the family continues to provide the framework for the emotional, financial and material support essential to the growth and development of its members, particularly infants and children as well as care of other members in the family including the elderly, disabled and infirm. Not only this, it remains a vital means of socialization, preservation and transmission of cultural values. This issue of family seems to have reached its crescendo when the United Nations Declared 1994 as the International Year of the family with its slogan "building the smallest democracy at the heart of society". This perhaps was an expression of the recognition of its strength to cope with societal changes.
Rationale for a National Policy on Family
Ever since, India achieved its independence, the Indian Government through its successive five year plans had developed several economic and social policies, schemes and programmes to meet the different needs of people. The only policy so far initiated in this area was in the form of the 'Family Welfare Programmes' of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and that too in the year 1977, three decades after India attained its independence. Nevertheless, a close examination of the programme reveals that it has the limited goal of promoting only Planned Parenthood with a two/one child norm.
In the absence of an overall family policy, the Department of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India may examine the need for a holistic family policy. Such a policy may guide the legislative bodies, different ministries and their departments, and other government organizations and infrastructure, at the state, district and village levels. By adopting such kind policy the Government too would be in a position to enrich the family and its interaction with the surrounding environment. In case of disintegration in the family, the community could take over.
Views on responsibility of fathers
The perceptions and practices associated with fathering are changing rapidly in India. Traditional Indian rrofions endorsed the father's role as a provider, protector, teacher, and moral guardian to children [Kane, 1974; Krishnan, 1998). Within the patriarchal family system in India, everyday care of young children remained primarily the mother's responsibility. Fathers maintained a distant, authoritative role, rather than an affective one (Kakar; 1981).
With more middle - class women entering the workforce and the Indian Constitution and worldwide media promoting gender equality, the demand for a man who has the knowledge, attitude and skills to share co-parenting responsibilities is growing in dual earner families (Bharat, 2002; Datta & Maheshwari, 1997; Rajadhyksha &Smita, 2004).
Similarly, children and women now have higher expectations of men in terms of warmth, care, understanding, and support; and many fathers also endorse the importance of these traits [Kumari, 2008; Sriram, Karnik, & Ali, 2002). Particularly in the middle class, parents are extremely concerned about ensuring a successful and secure future for their children, with an eye toward upward mobility in a globally competitive society. They are extremely conscious of their parental role to ensure the best for their children (Datta, 2007, Gore, 2003; Sinha, 2003; Sriram, 2003). Therefore, there is much pressure and demand on positive participation of men/fathers in all aspects offamily life.
Research studies with Indian fathers report of positive fathering ideals, such as guiding children's education, becoming more open and expressive, adopting less strict discipline measures, assigning more importance to children and to their fathering role, prioritizing communication with their children, and engaging children in extracurricular activities. (Mathur & Mathur, 2006; Sandhu, 2008; Srirarn, 2003, 2008). Again, in another study Mathur (2006) mentioned that adolescent children rated fathers high on such factors as being protective, loving, and using symbolic rewards; moderate on use of symbolic punishment, demands, and object rewards; and low on neglect, in difference and rejection. This indicates a shift toward inclination of family attitude of fathers towards their children.
An other study focused that fathers are also overextending themselves through a desire to provide more opportunities and ensure a secure educational and financial future for their children. This limits their actual participation in the family [Datta, 2007; Ahluwalia, 2009).
As reported by Sriram (2008), however, about 70% of fathers talked of obstacles preventing their ideals from being realized. Eighty percent faced difficulties in fulfilling children's physical and psychological needs, as well as in creating a conducive environment for children's optimal growth (50%), inculcating good values and habits in children (35%), and providing guidance for the future while helping their children become independent (40%). The most obvious factor was the conflict between the traditional orientation of fathers (i.e, that of automatically having power and complete authority in family matters and over children) and the current demands compelling fathers to become more of a friend with their children. Again, he mentioned that both fathers and mothers report lack of time, work pressure, family role demands, lack of skills and an unsuitable temperament as personal and practical barriers to their involvement, and thus feel guilty about being unable to participate fully in their children's lives.
The above reviews indicate that fathers play an important role in a child's development from birth through adulthood. In fact, numerous studies have reached the same conclusion: Children with involved fathers have an advantage 'socially and academically' over children with distant or no relationships with their fathers. "We found during our interviews with the children that fathers who are involved with their children have children with fewer problems that added involvement from a father helps children tremendously." Specifically, our research found better language skills and fewer behavioral problems, feel life secure in children with an actively involved father. Interestingly, this result holds true even if the father doesn't live in the same home as the child for example, in divorce or single parent situations. It appears that how involved the father is not where he lives in relation to the child is the crucial factor.
Emerging terms and concepts in fatherhood
The Diversity of fathers
Some children states that,
Factors involved in father's participation
Father's participation is generally measured as: availability, engagement and responsibility. Factors are follows:
Programs to support Fathers' participation in Children's lives
In India, social services have been developed to ensure the survival, health, nutrition, education and optimal development of children. There is a focus in recent times on seeking male partnership to ensure reproductive health and prevent child marriage or violence against women (International Council for Research on Women, Deepak Charitable Trust, Men Against Violence, OXFAM, workshops (sample titles include "Gender and the Care Regime organized by ISST and UNICEF (2009), and "fathers and families- responsibilities and challenges" (2008), organized on the international day of families at New Delhi in 2008) highlighted responsible fatherhood and the role of men in care as an objective.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights (UNCRC)
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) clearly states the importance of both mother and father sharing parental responsibility.
Articles 18 ofUNCRC, both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing of the child. The States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child rearing responsibilities and ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.
To create a more gender equitable society, we need to work with fathers at home and address the prevalent socialization processes, which can make boys prepared for a more caring fatherhood. This intersects with child development as boys and girls gain high self-esteem from a secure family environment where both mothers and fathers are involved in child rearing.
The UNCRC specifies parental rights and responsibilities as well as the child's right to access of both parents, who need to take the economic and financial responsibility of the child. Child maintenance legislation exists in most countries but enforced primarily against fathers. Moreover, in some cultures, men exercise absolute authority over their children.
So to encourage and create a new definition of fatherhood, support of the extended family, community, employers and government is imperative. Further, it need to identify already existing gender equitable men in our societies and engage them as allies.
Strategizing for interventions on masculinity in general and fatherhood in particular, requires work in research, capacity building, policy formulation, advocacy, communication and monitoring and evaluation following a rights based approach. To secure children's rights, interventions are engaging fathers in child participation; work on violence against children, promoting child development, non-discrimination and education.
Fatherhood in International perspective
In addition to ICDP (International Conference on Population and Development), held in Cario, 1994, there is a growing international consensus on involving boys and men in gender equity. "Special efforts should be made to emphasize men's shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive behaviour, including family planning, maternal and child health; prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV shared control and contribution to family income, children's education, health and nutrition; and recognition of the equal value of children of both sexes. Male responsibilities in family life must be included in the education of children from the earliest ages. Special emphasis should be placed on the prevention of violence against women and children."
In 2003, at the international fatherhood summit in UK, available literature on fatherhood was reviewed. Though most of the information then came from North America, Europe and Australia, today some research is available from those studies are as follows:
Outcomes of Father's Participation
When fathers participate in childcare, there are positives outcomes for children, family, society and the father himself. Professionals all over the world are now agreeing that men's participation as fathers, as co-parents and as partners with women in domestic chores, child-care and child rearing, do matter, for the following reasons:
Recommendations for Promoting Parental Involvement
Although efforts have been made for parental involvement through awareness programs for parents, grandparents, training workshop for preschool teachers, medical students, frontline workers of health and education programs, preparation and distribution of information education communication (lEC) materials, short stories, songs etc but it needs more father involvement.
Due to changing social conditions, both the desire and demand for father involvement is high in Indian society. Indian fathers, the majority of whom are moderately involved, can play a key role in ensuring the healthy development of their children by increasing their involvement in the right direction.
Educational institutions and practitioners can play a crucial role in actively supporting and encouraging fathers' involvement, because their voices are respected in the community and they can reach out to a large number of people.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Prof. R.8.S.Verma, HOD, Department of Social Work, lain Vishva Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India for his valuable inputs in improving this paper.
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Jain Vishva Bharati University, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India.
Research Officer, Indian Institute of Health management Research (IIHMR), Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.