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Recognising and supporting diverse fathers

Ensuring all men's fathering is seen, valued, and addressed

Why change is needed

The maternalist focus of the UK’s family policy and practice frameworks, and public debate, is underpinned by:

  • Narrow and traditional thinking about fathers’ roles, attitudes and behaviours

  • A failure to account for and differentiate men in different types of fathering relationship with children

  • Services’ reluctance to ‘name’ and target fathers and father-figures

What needs to happen

We need policymakers, service providers and the research community to pay more and closer attention to the diversity and nuance of men’s involvement in parenting, in their collection and analysis of data – to help ensure fathers’ impacts and support needs are not overlooked.


Key changes we’d like to see are:

  • More systematic collection of data from and about fathers by health and other services, and in cross-sectional research

  • A stronger focus on gender-disaggregated evaluations of services and interventions

  • More father-inclusive and differentiated co-parenting support for cohabiting and non-cohabiting parents

  • A move away from lazy categorisation – of fathers who do not live with their children full-time as ‘absent’ or ‘non-resident’, and of any non-biologically related male in a relationship with a mother as ‘stepfather’

Key actions

We developed and are actively promoting (in our own and others’ work) use of the term ‘own household father’ as an alternative to ‘non-resident father’ – to provoke more sensitive, precise and father-inclusive research and service development

We track, report on and critique official data and peer-reviewed research about fathers’ co-residence with dependent children, and involvement in caregiving and paid work – to help combat inaccurate assumptions about father absence

Embedded within our training and resources is a focus on confident use of the word 'father', where appropriate, in the design, promotion, and delivery of family services

Woven into our Nuffield Foundation-funded Contemporary Fathers in the UK series of evidence reviews is a strand of work led by our research associate Rebecca Goldman, that explores the breadth and depth of paternal data that is collected and analysed by the UK’s major cohort and longitudinal studies, and feeds into policymaking and service commissioning. Our Where's the Daddy? and The Kids are Alright (longitudinal datasets review) reports presents our findings.


Drawing on this work, we highlight research gaps and engage with the research community with a view to developing a stronger father-focus, thus enabling more accurate understandings of, and responses to, modern fatherhood.

We have produced guidance on how to address fathers and father-figures in LGBTQ+ families, and provide evidence-based support around inclusive approaches to working with fathers of colour and other minoritized groups

How you can help

Commission us to deliver a webinar or training at your workplace

Make a donation to support our ongoing policy work

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