This paper discusses some of the key issues facing fathers in Australia, including changing concepts about the role of the fathers and the potential impact of these changes on children. Recent fathering studies in Australia and the United States are discussed, as are statistics showing 19.3 percent of Australian families with children under age 15 are headed by a single woman compared to 1.9 headed by a father. The authors argue the concept of social fatherhood, including all responsibilities and activities fathers are expected to perform, has more influence on children than biological fatherhood. Media, literature, and advertising images of fathers and their role are examined as they contribute to contemporary perceptions and expectations, as well as conflicts that arise when these perceptions and the realities of fathering differ. Public perceptions aside, research does not support absent fathers as the sole cause of problems facing children today or the increase in youth risk behavior in fatherless families. Conceptualizing, sampling, and methodologic problems are common in research on fathering and its role on child development. Instead a multitude of environmental factors influence children, including the actions of fathers and father figures. Future research must include more input from children, something lacking in most studies, and discussion about tensions created by the different, often contradictory images of fathers in contemporary society. Numerous references.
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