- 1. a. The attribute of being a father; the relation of a father to a child; paternity. Also in spiritual sense.
- b. applied to God in his relation to mankind.
- c. with especial reference to Eph. iii. 15 after the Vulgate rendering (paternitas).
- d. confused use. The attribute of having a certain father.
- e. The position of being the ‘father’ or oldest member of a society
- 2. The relation of an author, originator, or perpetrator. rare.
- 3. Authority of or as of a father in various senses; paternal authority, headship. Obs.
- 4. The personality of a father; in thy, your, etc. fatherhood(s, a form of address, denomination, or title given: :a. to ecclesiastics, esp. those of high rank. His Holy Fatherhood, the Pope. Obs.
- b. to God.
- c. to a literal father; hence gen. to persons having a claim to respect.
A father is defined as a male parent of any type of offspring. The adjective "paternal" refers to father, parallel to "maternal" for mother.
The Father-child relationship is the defining factor of the fatherhood role. The majority of Fathers are naturally protective and supportive responsible parents who are able to engender a number of significant benefits for themselves, their communities, and most importantly, their children. Involved fathers offer developmentally specific provisions to their sons and daughters throughout the life cycle and are impacted themselves by their doing so. Active father figures have a key role to play in reducing behavior problems in boys and psychological problems in young women. For example, children who experience significant father involvement tend to exhibit higher scores on assessments of cognitive development, enhanced social skills and fewer behavior problems. An increased amount of father-child involvement has also proven to increase a child's social stability, educational achievement, and even their potential to have a solid marriage as an adult. The children are also more curious about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills. Children who were raised without fathers perceive themselves to be less cognitively and physically competent than their peers from father-present families. Mothers raising children without fathers reported more severe disputes with their child. Sons raised without fathers showed more feminine but no less masculine characteristics of gender role behavior.
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.
The father is often seen as an authority figure. According to Deleuze, the father authority exercises repression over sexual desire. A common observation among scholars is that the authority of the father and of the political leader are closely intertwined, that there is a symbolic identification between domestic authority and national political leadership. In this sense, links have been shown between the concepts of "patriarchal", "paternalistic", "cult of personality", "fascist", "totalitarian", "imperial". The fundamental common grounds between domestic and national authority, are the mechanisms of naming (exercise the authority in someone's name) and identification. In a patriarchal society, authority typically uses such rhetoric of fatherhood and family to implement their rule and advocate its legitimacy.
In the Roman and aristocratic patriarchal family, "the husband and the father had a measure of political authority and served as intermediary between the household and the polity." In Western culture patriarchy and authority have been synonymous. In the 19th century Europe, the idea was common, among both traditionalist and revolutionaries, that the authority of the domestic father should "be made omnipotent in the family so that it becomes less necessary in the state". In the second part of that century, there was an extension of the authority of the husband over his wife and the authority of the father over his children, including "increased demands for absolute obedience of children to the father". Europe saw the rise of "new ideological hegemony of the nuclear family form and a legal codification of patriarchy", which was contemporary with the solid spread of the "nation-state model as political norm of order".
Determination of parenthood
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. In the United States, the Uniform Parentage Act essentially defines a father as a man who conceives a child through sexual intercourse.
Like mothers, human fathers may be categorised 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.
The most familiar English terms for father include dad, daddy, papa, pop and pa. Other colloquial expressions include my old man.
- Natural/Biological father - the most common category: child product of man and woman
- 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.
- Surprise father - where the men did not know that there was a child until possibly years afterwards
- Posthumous father - father died before children were born (or even conceived in the case of artificial insemination)
- Teenage father/youthful father - associated with teenage sexual intercourse
- Non-parental father - unmarried father whose name does not appear on child's birth certificate: does not have legal responsibility but continues to have financial responsibility (UK)
- Sperm donor father - a genetic connection but man does not have legal or financial responsibility if conducted through licensed clinics
- Stepfather - wife has child from previous relationship
- Father-in-law - the father of one's spouse
- Adoptive father - a father who has adopted a child
- Foster father - child is raised by a man who is not the biological or adoptive father usually as part of a couple.
- Cuckolded father - where child is the product of the mother's adulterous relationship
- Social father - where man takes de facto responsibility for a child (in such a situation the child is known as a "child of the family" in English law)
- 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
- 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.
Fatherhood defined by contact level with child
- Weekend/holiday father - where child(ren) only stay(s) with father at weekends, holidays, etc.
- 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).
- Stay at home dad - the male equivalent of a housewife with child
- Where man in couple originally seeking IVF treatment withdraws consent before fertilisation (UK)
- Where the apparently male partner in an IVF arrangement turns out to be legally a female (evidenced by birth certificate) at the time of the treatment (UK) (TLR 1 June 2006)
A biological child of a man who, for the special reason above, is not their legal father, has no automatic right to financial support or inheritance. Legal fatherlessness refers to a legal status and not to the issue of whether the father is now dead or alive.
For some animals, it is the fathers who take care of the young.
- Darwin frog (Rhinoderma darwini) fathers carry eggs in the vocal pouch.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dolphin fathers help in the care of the young.
- A number of bird species have active, caring fathers who assist the mothers.
Most 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 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. Some 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.
Finally, in some species neither the father nor the mother provides any care
- This is true for most insects and fish
Father can also refer metaphorically to a person who is considered the founder of a body of knowledge or of an institution. In such context the meaning of "father" is similar to that of "founder".
- "WordNet". https://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=father. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- Early Childhood Longitudinal Study 2006. "Measuring Father Involvement in Young Children's Lives." National Center for Education Statistics. Fathers of the United States children born in 2001.
- Minnesota Fathers & Families Network. "Do We Count all the Fathers in Minnesota?" (Saint Paul, MN: Author, 2007). 51.
- Minnesota Fathers & Families Network. "Fathers to the Forefront: A five-year plan to strengthen Minnesota families." (Saint Paul, MN: Author. 2007).
- Diamond, M. J. "My Father Before Me: How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout The Life Cycle." NY: Norton, 2007
- Children Who Have An Active Father Figure Have Fewer Psychological And Behavioral Problems
- Pruett, K. "Fatherneed: Why father care is as essential as mother care for your child," New York: Free Press, 2000.
- "The Effects of Father Involvement: A Summary of the Research Evidence," Father Involvement Initiative Ontario Network, Fall 2002 newsletter.
- Anderson Moore, K. "Family Structure and Child Well-being" Washington, DC: Child Trends, 2003.
- United States. National Center for Fathering, Kansas City, MO. Partnership for Family Involvement in Education. A Call to Commitment: Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning. June, 2000
- Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers.
- Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: a follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence
- Maurice Godelier, Métamorphoses de la parenté, 2004
- "New Left Review - Jack Goody: The Labyrinth of Kinship". https://newleftreview.org/?view=2592. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
- Osaki, Harumi Killing Oneself, Killing the Father: On Deleuze's Suicide in Comparison with Blanchot's Notion of Death Literature and Theology, doi:10.1093/litthe/frm019
- Foucault's response to Freud: sado-masochism and the aestheticization of power
- Eva L. Corredor (Dis)embodiments of the Father in Maghrebian Fiction. The French Review, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Dec., 1992), pp. 295-304
- Paul Rosefeldt; Peter Lang, 1996. The Absent Father in Modern Drama [CHAPTER 3 - QUESTIONING THE FATHER'S AUTHORITY https://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=9916349]
- Deleuze, Gilles. Coldness and Cruelty. Masochism. Trans. Jean McNeil. New York: Zone, 1989. pp. 63-68. 
- Borneman, John (2004) Death Of The Father: An Anthropology Of The End In Political Authority ISBN 1571811117  pp.1-2, 11-12, 75-75
- AnthroSource | PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review - 29(1):151 - Citation
- David Foster Taming the Father: John Locke's Critique of Patriarchal Fatherhood. The Review of Politics, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 641-670
- Alexis de Tocqueville 1830
- WHITE, NICHOLAS review of Questioning the Father: From Darwin to Zola, Ibsen, Strindberg, and Hardy Journal of European Studies, December, 2000
- Jules Simon 1869
- Michelle Perrot 1990 A History of Private Life p.167
- Minnesota Fathers & Families Network. "Do We Count Fathers in Minnesota?" (Saint Paul, MN: Author, 2007).
- S Kraemer (1991) The Origins of Fatherhood: An Ancient Family Process. Family Process 30 (4), 377–392. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.1991.00377.x
- M J Diamond (2007) My Father Before Me; How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout Their Lives. New York: WW Norton.