Dads in the UK are not treated as “equally valuable parents”, a new report on Fatherhood by the NSPCC has claimed.
According to the child protection charity “we assume that children need their mums, yet dads are somehow different [and] this reflects the gender inequality that exists around parenting.”
The claims, made in the Dad Project report, will raise eyebrows amongst men’s rights and fathers’ rights campaigners who have long accused the charity of being anti-father. In 2006, for example, the MP Tim Loughton, who went on to become the current coalition government's Children’s Minister, slammed an NSPCC campaign to prevent separated fathers from being given an automatic right to have contact with their children.
Loughton told the House of Commons: "The [NSPCC] briefing is alarmist, sensationalist, misleading, empirically flawed, completely irresponsible and highly reprehensible. It is not worthy of an organisation such as the NSPCC, which claims to stand up for our children."
In its latest report on Fathers, the NSPCC has published the findings of new YouGov survey revealing the 95% of dads agree that it is important for dads to be involved in looking after their babies. However, the children’s charity acknowledges that the number of dads who remain involved in their children’s lives is much lower.
40% of children don't see much of dad
“Research suggests that as many as four in ten children are being brought up by their mothers, with no regular contact with their fathers", says the report. "To prevent this drifting of fathers out of their children’s lives, we must do all we can to capture and maintain their early enthusiasm right from the start – to help dads to be active parents through pregnancy, birth and beyond."
The campaign group Fathers 4 Justice, which has staged protests at the charity’s London headquarters, alleges that the NSPCC has ignored “repeated requests” to investigate cases where separated fathers are unfairly prevented from being involved in their children’s lives.
The NSPCC report overlooks the issue of Family Law reform, focusing largely on the way health professionals, such as midwives, involve fathers in the birth of their child. According to the YouGov survey, while 76% of dads agreed that it is important for midwives to support dads as well as mums, 43% say midwives are not very good at including new dads in maternity care.
Society is biased against dads
The charity does acknowledge that the issue of undervaluing fathers isn’t confined to midwives. “It is important to be clear that it isn’t just health services that often fail to treat dads as equally important parents” says the report, “this bias exists across all of society.”
One example of “society” undervaluing fathers is the way men are treated in the media. Men’s advocates have consistently complained that the NSPCC “demonises” dads by disproportionately portraying fathers as abusers in advertising campaigns. In response, the NSPCC has been forced to acknowledge that its own research found that mothers were responsible for 49% of violent incidents against children with fathers responsible for 40%. The charity also agreed to withdraw its “all I want for Christmas is for daddy to stop hitting me” advertising campaign, after receiving numerous complaints.
In this latest report, the NSPCC points the finger at social attitudes that prevent boys playing with toys that prepare them to be involved fathers (such as dolls and tea sets); the limited paid parental leave provided by the government and the unwillingness of employers to supplement parental leave for fathers as often as they do for mothers.
“Dads are not treated as equally valuable parents,” says the NSPCC. “We need to look across the board at how we change our portrayal of, and interactions with dads. The media, marketing, social norms, public attitudes and public services all have a role to play.”
---Photo credit: Flickr/Maik Meid
Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men
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