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Helping fathers find their feet amid continuing culture shock

Have you heard the term "Culture Shock?" It came to prominence in the 1950s, courtesy of a Canadian anthropologist. He coined it to refer to the anxiety he observed resulting from "losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse."

The term originally applied to situations involving travel for international studies. Students and teachers going overseas, or vice-versa, could expect to suffer culture shock. But today, some agree it could just as well apply to the family construct. It's certainly safe to say that concepts of the family have triggered seismic shocks that are still going on – including as regards the law and fatherhood.

Fathers' changing role

It was not that long ago that the maternal and paternal roles seemed fairly well defined. Dad worked as the breadwinner. Mom stayed home and managed the house and the children. The last 40 years have seen many changes and data from the Pew Research Center offers perspective on just how much.

Identity

It's hard to know where the role of parenting would have ranked for dads of a couple of generations ago. Today, however, 57 percent of fathers affirm that their job as a parent is an extremely important facet of their identity. That compares with 58 percent of mothers. Dads are also more likely than mothers to say they enjoy parenting and find it fulfilling.

Involvement

Fifty years ago, fathers were spending maybe two hours a week caring for the children. In 2015, a survey set the average at seven hours. They've also doubled the time they spend on general household chores. It's worth noting, though, that mothers still put in more time in both of those areas.

Amid this upheaval, enter the unmarried father.

Families in which mother and father are not married may not be considered ideal, but they are a growing reality. In many instances, the law is lagging behind. In Florida, for example, an unmarried father has to take some very specific steps if he wants to establish and maintain a parent-child relationship. Merely signing a birth certificate is not enough.

To secure visitation rights and exercise parental responsibility, the unmarried father and mother must file a notarized paternity agreement with the state or go to court for official recognition.

And to be sure that the process is fulfilled properly, it's a good idea to consult with a skilled attorney.

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