A father (or dad) is a male parent who has raised a child, supplied the sperm through sexual intercourse or sperm donation which grew into a child, and/or donated a body cell which resulted in a clone. The adjective "paternal" refers to a father and comparatively to "maternal" for a mother. The verb "to father" means to procreate or to sire a child from which also derives the noun "fathering". Fathers determine the sex of their child through a sperm cell which either contains an X chromosome (female), or Y chromosome (male). Related terms of endearment are dad, daddy, pa, papa, pop and pops. A male role-model that children can look up to is sometimes referred to as a father-figure.
From Middle English fader, from Old English fæder, from Proto-Germanic *fadēr (cf. East Frisian foar, Dutch vader, German vater), from Proto-Indo-European *ph₂tḗr (cf. Irish athair, Tocharian A pācar, B pācer, Lithuanian patinas ("male animal")), akin to Latin pater, akin to Ancient Greek πατήρ (patēr), akin to Sanskrit पितृ (pitru).
Traditionally, fathers act in a protective, supportive and responsible way towards their children. Involved fathers offer developmentally specific provisions to their sons and daughters throughout the life cycle and are impacted themselves by doing so. Active father figures may play a role in reducing behavior and psychological problems in young men and women. An increased amount of father–child involvement may help increase a child's social stability, educational achievement, and their potential to have a solid marriage as an adult. Their children may also be more curious about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills. Children who were raised with fathers perceive themselves to be more cognitively and physically competent than their peers without a father. Mothers raising children together with a father reported less severe disputes with their child.
The father figure does not always have to be a child's biological father and some children will have a biological father as well as a step- or nurturing father. When the biological father dies, or divorces, the mother may marry a second man who becomes the stepfather of the child. Where a child is conceived through sperm donation, the donor will be the "biological father" of the child, and if the mother has a male partner, he will be the nurturing father.
Fatherhood as legitimate identity shared by specific men and their children can be dependent on domestic factors and behaviors. For example, a study of the relationship between fathers, their sons, and home computers found that the construction of fatherhood and masculinity required fathers display computer expertise.
According to the anthropologist Maurice Godelier, the parental role assumed by human males is a critical difference between human society and that of humans' closest biological relatives—chimpanzees and bonobos—who appear to be unaware of their "father" connection. Studies show that fathers with smaller testicles are more likely to bathe, feed and nappy change their babies.
Since Roman times fatherhood has been determined with this famous sentence: Mater semper certa; pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant ("The [identity of the] mother is always certain; the father is whom the marriage vows indicate"). The historical approach has been destabilised with the recent emergence of accurate scientific testing, particularly DNA testing. As a result, the law on fatherhood is undergoing rapid changes.
Like mothers, human fathers may be categorized according to their biological, social or legal relationship with the child. Historically, the biological relationship paternity has been determinative of fatherhood. However, proof of paternity has been intrinsically problematic and so social rules often determined who would be regarded as a father, e.g. the husband of the mother.
An individual who is a genetic chimera could theoretically have more than one biological father. No example of this has been reported but human chimeras were unknown to exist until recently and scientists are currently uncertain as to the extent of chimerism within the human population.
Fatherhood in the U.S.
In the U.S., the image of the married father as the primary wage-earner is changing in the face of evidence that fathers may be married or single; gay or straight; living with their own children or raising others’ children, living nearby or out of the country, or incarcerated. The social context of fatherhood plays an important part in the well-being of men and all their children. In the U.S., 16% of single parents are men.
The discovery of fatherhood is likely to have been as important for the development of the human race as the discovery of fire. The discovery of fatherhood took place in a historical period for which information sources are rare, but the few scholars focusing on that period gave us a sufficiently clear picture of this discovery.
The link between sexual acts and procreation can be empirically identified, but it is by no means of immediate evidence. In fact, the conception of life cannot be observed, whereas its birth is obviously visible. The extended time lag between the former and the latter certainly does not help to identify their link, but on the contrary it makes even more difficult to assume any kind of relationship between these two events. As a result, human beings ignored that males impregnate females for thousands of years. During this extended period procreation was considered to be an autonomous 'ability' of women: men were essential to ensure the survival and defence of the social group, but only women could enhance and reintegrate it through their ability to create new individuals. This gave women a role of primary and indisputable importance within their social groups.
This situation probably persisted during the whole Palaeolithic age. Some scholars believe the well-known Venus figurines of that age to be clear witnesses of it. During the transition to the Neolithic age, agriculture and cattle breeding became the core activities of a growing number of human communities. Breeding in particular is likely to have led women – who used to spend more time than men taking care of the cattle – to observations and considerations which gradually allowed them to discover the procreative effect of the sexual act between a male and a female.
For communities which looked at sexuality just as a source of pleasure and an element of social cohesion without attaching any taboo character to it, this discovery must have led to a sense of upset with consequences not only on the regulation of sexuality itself, but on the whole political, social, and economic system. The time to arrive to sufficient certainty about the mechanism of life conception must have been very long, but this time length cannot have prevented the implications of this acquired certainty from being extremely dramatic. Eventually, these implications led to the model of society which – in different times and shapes – was adopted by most human cultural communities.
Still today, this social model founded on the capacity of the man to fecundate women tends globally to prevail: this capacity allowed men to free themselves from the secular frustration derived from having recognized only to women the ability to generate life and led them to configure a society affirming their supremacy over women. And, of course, their supremacy over the human beings they created: their children. We find an enlightening example of this social development in Aeschylus's tragedy The Eumenides. The Coryphaeus of the Erinyes blames matricidal Orestes for having shed his own blood, but God Apollo replies that this is absolutely untrue because the mother is only a wet-nurse and not a progenitor of the child, whose blood derives from his/her unique parent: the father. This argument is accepted by the judges and Orestes finally obtains a verdict of not guilty. The extreme position taken here by God Apollo did not find complete acceptance, not even in Athens. In the regions where this position originally prevailed, it was gradually abandoned facing improving scientific explanations of human procreation. But traces of this position can still be found today in some cultural systems.
The discovery of fatherhood led to the supremacy of the father lineal over the matrilineal descent – which is still characteristic of most models of family we observe today – and, most of all, to the sacral character assigned to the sexual act which was rapidly regulated by severe norms. These norms revoked the absolute freedom human beings used to enjoy with respect to their sexual behaviour, thus blaming and prohibiting all sexual acts not aimed at a fecundation of the woman. Moreover, the discovery of fatherhood and the sedentary forms of living developed during the Neolithic Age led the man to develop the first forms of private property and to defend them through conflicts – and eventually wars – with competing human beings.
In early human history there have been notable instances of father–offspring conflicts. For example:
Beatrice Cenci, Italian noblewoman who, according to legend, killed her father after he imprisoned and raped her. She was condemned and beheaded for the crime along with her brother and her stepmother in 1599.
Lizzie Borden (1860–1927) allegedly killed her father and her stepmother with an axe in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. She was acquitted, but her innocence is still disputed.
Kip Kinkel (1982- ), an Oregon boy who was convicted of killing his parents at home and two fellow students at school on May 20, 1998.
Sarah Marie Johnson (1987- ), an Idaho girl who was convicted of killing both parents on the morning of September 2, 2003.
Dipendra of Nepal (1971–2001) reportedly massacred much of his family at a royal dinner on June 1, 2001, including his father King Birendra, mother, brother, and sister.
Christopher Porco (1983- ), was convicted on August 10, 2006, of the murder of his father and attempted murder of his mother with an axe.
Father and son
Baby Daddy – A biological father who bears financial responsibility for a child, but with whom the mother has little or no contact.
Birth father – the biological father of a child who, due to adoption or parental separation, does not raise the child or cannot take care of one.
Biological father – or just "Father" is the genetic father of a child
Posthumous father – father died before children were born (or even conceived in the case of artificial insemination)
Putative father – unwed man whose legal relationship to a child has not been established but who is alleged to be or claims that he may be the biological father of a child
Sperm donor – an anonymous or known biological father who donates his sperm to be used in artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation in order to father a child for a third party female. Also used as a slang term meaning "baby daddy".
Surprise father – where the men did not know that there was a child until possibly years afterward
Teenage father/youthful father – associated with teenage sexual intercourse
Non-biological (social and legal relationship)
Adoptive father – the father who has adopted a child
Cuckolded father – where the child is the product of the mother's adulterous relationship
DI Dad – social/legal father of children produced via Donor Insemination (where a donor's sperm were used to impregnate the DI Dad's spouse)
Father-in-law – the father of one's spouse
Foster father – child is raised by a man who is not the biological or adoptive father usually as part of a couple.
Mother's partner – assumption that current partner fills father role
Mother's husband – under some jurisdictions (e.g. in Quebec civil law), if the mother is married to another man, the latter will be defined as the father
Presumed father – Where a presumption of paternity has determined that a man is a child's father regardless of if he actually is or is not the biological father
Social father – where a man takes de facto responsibility for a child, such as caring for one who has been abandoned or orphaned (the child is known as a "child of the family" in English law)
Stepfather – a married non-biological father where the child is from a previous relationship
Fatherhood defined by contact level
Absent father – father who cannot or will not spend time with his child(ren)
Second father – a non-parent whose contact and support is robust enough that near parental bond occurs (often used for older male siblings who significantly aid in raising a child)
Weekend/holiday father – where child(ren) only stay(s) with father on weekends, holidays, etc.
For some animals, it is the fathers who take care of the young.
Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwini) fathers carry eggs in the vocal pouch.
Most male waterfowls are very protective in raising their offspring, sharing scout duties with the female. Examples are the geese, swans, gulls, loons, and a few species of ducks. When the families of most of these waterfowls travel, they usually travel in a line and the fathers are usually the ones guarding the offspring at the end of the line while the mothers lead the way.
The female seahorse (hippocampus) deposits eggs into the pouch on the male's abdomen. The male releases sperm into the pouch, fertilizing the eggs. The embryos develop within the male's pouch, nourished by their individual yolk sacs.
Male Emperor Penguins alone incubate their eggs; females do no incubation. Rather than building a nest, each male protects his egg by balancing it on the tops of his feet, enclosed in a special brood pouch. Once the eggs are hatched however, the females will rejoin the family.
Male beavers secure their offspring along with the females during their first few hours of their lives. As the young beavers mature, their fathers will teach them how to search for materials to build and repair their own dams, before they disperse to find their own mates.
Wolf fathers help feed, protect, and play with their pups. In some cases, several generations of wolves live in the pack, giving pups the care of grandparents, aunts/uncles, and siblings, in addition to parents. The father wolf is also the one who does most of the hunting when the females are securing their newborn pups.
Dolphin fathers help in the care of the young. Newborns are held on the surface of the water by both parents until they are ready to swim on their own.
A number of bird species have active, caring fathers who assist the mothers, such as the waterfowls mentioned above.
Apart from humans, fathers in few primate species care for their young. Those that do are tamarins and marmosets. Particularly strong care is also shown by siamangs where fathers carry infants after their second year. In titi and owl monkeys fathers carry their infants 90% of the time with "titi monkey infants developing a preference for their fathers over their mothers".Silverback gorillas have less role in the families but most of them serve as an extra protecting the families from harm and sometimes approaching enemies to distract them so that his family can escape unnoticed.
Many species, though, display little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. The male leaves the female soon after mating and long before any offspring are born. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young.
A male bear leaves the female shortly after mating and will kill and sometimes eat any bear cub he comes across, even if the cub is his. Bear mothers spend much of their cubs' early life protecting them from males. (Many artistic works, such as advertisements and cartoons, depict kindly "papa bears" when this is the exact opposite of reality.)
Domesticated dog fathers show little interest in their offspring, and unlike wolves, are not monogamous with their mates and are thus likely to leave them after mating.
Male lions will tolerate cubs, but only allow them to eat meat from dead prey after they have had their fill. A few are quite cruel towards their young and may hurt or kill them with little provocation. A male who kills another male to take control of his pride will also usually kill any cubs belonging to that competing male. However, it is also the males who are responsible for guarding the pride while the females hunt. However the male lions are the only felines that actually have a role in fatherhood.
Male rabbits generally tolerate kits but unlike the females, they often show little interest in the kits and are known to play rough with their offspring when they are mature, especially towards their sons. This behaviour may also be part of an instinct to drive the young males away to prevent incest matings between the siblings. The females will eventually disperse from the warren as soon as they mature but the father does not drive them off like he normally does to the males.
Horse stallions and Pig boars have little to no role in parenting, nor are they monogamous with their mates. They will tolerate young to a certain extent, but due to their aggressive male nature, they are generally annoyed by the energetic exuberance of the young, and may hurt or even kill the young. Thus, stud stallions and boars are not kept in the same pen as their young or other females.
Finally, in some species neither the father nor the mother provides any care.