What does history tell us about fatherhood policy?

25 June 2014

Jeremy Davies writes:

The famous Irish playwright, novelist, essayist and social reformer George Bernard Shaw once said that “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

In Supporting Active Fatherhood in Britain, historian of fatherhood Dr Laura King warns that nowhere is this more the case than in the making of family policy.

“The inaccurate assumption that there was a lack of paternal involvement in the past colours our interpretation of fatherhood today: if previous generations of fathers were largely absent, even a small amount of participation by modern fathers is seen as ‘good progress’,” she says, adding that “the celebration of close father-child relationships is certainly positive, but we must reject suggestions that this has only developed since the 1970s or even 1990s. Policies today should be designed to ensure all parents, regardless of sex or form of family, can exercise choice to be active parents.”

Dr King’s article is two years old, but the points she made then are just as valid now…and especially as the political parties consider their policies in the run-up to the 2015 election.

Some thought-provoking coffee-time reading for anyone interested and involved in policy development…