News single dads stigmatised

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Stigma still attached to single dad status

Single fathers are still facing discrimination towards their parenting skills, according to a new study of single parents by researchers in Western Australia.

The study, which was conducted by Edith Cowan University, found that single dads risk being stereotyped as ‘incompetent’ at caring for children, and come up against considerably more stigma than single mothers.

Single fathers are seen much more negatively than single mothers and there are more hurdles for fathers,” said University lecturer Bronwyn Harman, who led the study. “The main thing many men reported hearing from people is that they can’t parent children as well as mothers can.

“They found negative attitudes everywhere government agencies, the Education Department and schools, the Family Court system and just society in general.”

According to the study, many divorced dads believe they did not receive a fair custody arrangement in Family Court decisions because it was assumed that mothers were better and more natural parents.

“Single fathers believed they were experiencing more difficulties than single mothers, but all the attention seemed to be on mothers,” Dr Harman said.

“They had difficulties such as getting their child’s school to inform them of certain things because it was sometimes assumed that only the mothers needed to know. Both as a society and in official (processes), we need to consider fathers on an equal footing as mothers and give them the same rights and opportunities.”

Whilst it’s the single dads who perhaps have the biggest hurdles to overcome, the study found that single mothers are also still stigmatised by society, and face unfair assumptions in regard to why and how they became a single parent.

“There is the stereotype that single mothers are generally low income, uneducated and unemployed, and that they’re having children for money, but that’s not true,” she said.

In the 2011 census, just over 15% of families in Australia were reported as single-parent families, adding up to just under one million families, and it’s a trend that’s likely to rise. Earlier this month, it was reported that single-parent families are now so common in the UK that couples living with their children are the minority in some parts of the country.

Tell us about you – have you had to overcome stigma and stereotypes as a single parent?

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Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to

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