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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 03:20 GMT 04:20 UK


Magazine berates 'deadbeat dads'

Young men would not stay in a relationship for their children's sake

Most young men would accept financial responsibility for their children, but would not stay in a relationship for their sake, according to a Mori poll.

Eighty-six per cent of men aged 16 to 25 interviewed in a poll for the Reader's Digest said they would contribute financially towards the cost of their children.

But 61% said they would not stay in a relationship for the sake of their children if it had broken down.

However, almost three quarters of the men interviewed said they thought children needed to be brought up by two parents in the same home.

Walking away

The Reader's Digest says the poll of 400 men across the UK shows that men are walking away from their children.

But other social policy experts say the research is flawed since only a very small number of young men actually have children.

Moreover, they add, views have changed about 'shotgun marriages'.

They are also worried that the poll gives a stereotyped view of young men which is undeserved.

But the Reader's Digest says absent fathers - or "deadbeat dads" - are harming their children.

Editor-in-chief Russell Twisk said: "There are one million dads today who, for a variety of reasons, have already left their children.

"Depressingly, the next generation looks likely to do the same. In the end, taxpayers have to foot the bill for this, but far worse are the social consequences.

"The children are the real losers when dads walk away."

The magazine says research shows that children who lack father figures are more likely to be involved in crime, be unemployed and have health and education problems.

'Women's work'

The number of single parent families in the UK has almost doubled since 1983.

The report also found that teenagers were more likely to say they would commit to relationships for the sake of children than men in their 20s.

The vast majority of men also disagreed with the notion that bringing up children was "women's work".

However, 7% said that it was.

Ceridwen Roberts, director of the Family Policy Studies Centre (FPSC), said the study was "not serious" and could be "pernicious".

She said research by the FPSC showed that only about 10-11% of men under 25 had fathered children.

[ image: Many young men face barriers to fatherhood, say researchers]
Many young men face barriers to fatherhood, say researchers
"This may affect the way they respond to questions. Why ask people hypothetical questions? My view is that this study does not tell us anything that is useful," she stated.

She said the FPSC had published a study about two years ago in which the researcher had actually tracked down 40 or 50 young fathers.

It found a more complex picture of men who wanted to be good fathers, but found they were faced with many barriers.

These included the fact that many tended not to have jobs or their own homes, which made it difficult for them to be seen as "serious adults" and "family providers".

Also they were often excluded from issues surrounding childbirth and were reliant on the goodwill of the mother - and possibly her family - to be able to see the child.

Health visitors

The government is backing moves to include boys more in family planning and parenting issues.

For example, it wants to give health visitors more of a role in promoting good parenting.

Health visitors say they believe that information should be targeted at both parents. In the past, they have tended to focus on mothers.

But the FPSC warns that this should not only include parents who are co-habiting as this may exclude many young fathers.

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