Academic journal article Family Relations

The Fatherhood Experience of Divorced Custodial Fathers in Israel

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Fatherhood Experience of Divorced Custodial Fathers in Israel

Article excerpt


In this article we examine the fatherhood experience of divorced fathers in Israel who are raising children by themselves. Issues of fatherhood, the involvement of fathers, and the importance of their role in their children's lives have been the subject of considerable interest in recent decades in academic and public discourse. Although traditionally fathers perceived their role as breadwinners, representatives of morality, and masculine, as a result of cultural, economic, and social changes of recent years, fathers are increasingly more involved in housework and child-raising (Pieck & Fleck, 1997). Moreover, there is greater recognition of the contribution they make to their children's emotional, social, and academic development (Lamb, 2010). Understanding the processes by which men ultimately assume a paternal identity and persist in that role has been the focus of much research, not only on "new fathers," but on fathers who have undergone separation and divorce, because a growing number of the latter are undertaking primary care of their children (Wall & Arnold, 2007). Since the 1960s, fathers have attained custody of their children at an increasing rate (Hamer & Marchioro, 2002). It is clearly apparent that the challenge of integrating work and childrearing forms a significant source of stress for the custodial fathers. They need to reevaluate their abilities as breadwinners and revisit decisions concerning their place of residence, their workplace (Hilton & Kopera-Frye, 2004), and the part-time nature of their work (Tusni-Fang & Chen, 2006). In this study we explore the challenges faced by custodial fathers by hearing their own voice and views and revealing their thoughts and feelings on grappling with their role as single parents following a divorce.

Custodial Fathers: Divorced Fathers Raising Children by Themselves

In Israel, as in other Western countries, the mother is the main caretaker in most families, and in the majority of parental separation cases, the children remain in her custody (Cohen, 2012). Fathers who raise their children by themselves are an unusual phenomenon in Israel society. The level of social and cultural awareness of this group is still very low (Coles, 2009) both in the United States and in Israel. The prevailing perception in society at large, and among the fathers themselves, is that this is an unusual choice for men, and one they were not raised to make. Accordingly, they find it difficult to identify potential role models and sources of identification (Silverstein, Auerbach, & Levant, 2002). Most of the studies on divorced custodial fathers have been conducted in the United States, where this group comprises some 2% of all divorcees (Bokker, 2006). Along with examining factual issues, such as their socioeconomic profile (Brown, 2000) and how they obtained custody (Greif, 1995), these studies have explored their functioning and difficulties as fathers (Bronte·-Tinkew, Scott, & Lilja, 2010; Coles, 2009), their emotional adjustment (Coles, 2009), and their relations with their children's mothers (Greif, 1995).

Studies have reported that most of the fathers perceive their role as one of "generative fathering" and attach supreme value to raising, educating, and nurturing their children ( Bowman, 1993) on the same level as that provided by mothers (Powell & Downey, 1997). The majority of these studies compare the functioning of custodial fathers and mothers (Brown, 2000), reporting that fathers delegate more responsibilities to their children and, at the same time, enjoy greater respect from them (Ambert, 1982). They are less preoccupied by disciplinary matters (Defrain & Eirick, 1981), make greater use of positive parental behaviors (Hilton & Devall, 1998), attach less weight to authoritative behaviors, and prefer to be perceived as friends to their children (Bronte-Tinkew et al., 2010; Coles, 2003, 2009).

Studies examining the emotional adaptation of custodial fathers have raised contradictory findings. …

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