Britain needs a culture shift so that fathers are seen as a “crucial pillar” in children’s lives rather than a “dispensable extra”, according to the Centre for Social Justice.
The think tank’s chief executive Andy Cook said that regular contact with a father figure boosts cognitive skills such as reasoning and language development, and reduces criminal behaviour in children. He warned that fatherlessness in Britain is causing a “crisis”, as nearly half of all children born today will not be living with both parents by the time they are 15.
“Over the last 40 years, the meteoric rise in family breakdown has blighted the lives of the poorest children the most. The relationship children have with their father affects their self-esteem, how well they do at school, even whether they are able to form happy, long-lasting relationships as adults,” he told the Observer.
Cook acknowledged that relationships would not always work out, but said a culture shift could minimise the frequency of families breaking down, arguing that fathers have an important role to play in a child’s upbringing.
He said: “We need a societal shift in perspective from regarding fathers as a dispensable extra to recognising their value as a crucial pillar in a child’s life.”
David Cameron was due to release a flagship policy aimed at countering family breakdown within days of the European Union (EU) referendum, but it was was ditched when Theresa May took over as Prime Minister.
The policy took the view that child poverty is about more than just money, highlighting family breakdown and other issues such as debt and addiction as contributors. Campaigners slammed the new definition for including value judgements, claiming that it risked “stigmatising” single parents.
The Centre for Social Justice’s former chief executive Christian Guy, who served as David Cameron’s poverty advisor, said the previous strategy was aimed at starting a “parenting revolution” — telling the Observer that family instability “blighted lives in the poorest neighbourhoods”.
Earlier this month Conservative MP Lucy Allan warned that children attending Fathers4Justice protests have been considered for the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Prevent, which was set up to deter “violent extremism” and terrorism.
Campaigning for fairness towards men in Britain’s divorce courts, the fathers’ rights group have long maintained that contact with dads can provide major benefits to a child’s upbringing.