Moving beyond the ‘non-resident father’ label

14 December 2021

We often hear the phrase ‘families come in all shapes and sizes’ these days. But in research, policy and practice there’s still a tendency to define fathers in a simplistic and binary way: you’re either ‘resident’ or ‘non-resident’.

In fact, as most children whose parents have separated or divorced (or live apart for other reasons) would tell you, life’s often not as simple as that. Check out our infographic for a quick summary of the problem.

Infographic: Moving beyond the 'non-resident father' label

Our Nuffield Foundation-funded report Where’s the Daddy? (2017) explored this issue in the context of large-scale research, looking at how information about fathers and fatherhood is gathered, recorded and analysed in UK datasets, including cohort and longitudinal studies. Check out the Condensed Report, Full Report or Executive Summary.

In our research for Where’s the Daddy? we found varied approaches to asking about fathers, and lots of missed opportunities. We’ve since tested our ideas for a new ‘typology’ of fathers, in partnership with ScotCen as part of an ESRC-funded study, focused on the recruitment and retention of fathers who do not live full-time with their children – whom we call ‘own-household fathers’ – in longitudinal and cohort studies.

To find out more, check out this blog by Konstantina Vosnaki, Senior Researcher at the Scottish Centre for Social Research,  our article in the Social Research Association Journal (Summer 2021, pp13-22), and our ESRC Working Paper.

Through our training and consultancy work, we’ve encountered many examples of ‘father-blindness’ in policy and practice – often reinforced by binary thinking about residence and non-residence. Unpicking this, in order to ‘see’ fathers in all their many and various forms, is a key part of all the support we offer. To find out more about ways we could help you move beyond the ‘non-resident father’ label, check out our training brochure.

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