..on a socially accepted definition for "Single Fathers." Here they are simply defined as "Men who have a child and don't live with the child's mother."
The most inaccurate portrayal we have seen of a single father definition is the one that implies a single father is only one who has full custody of their children. This is not the case as the label Single Father or Single Mother has no relationship to who has custody. The label simply puts forth the meaning of the words from common reference dictionaries. Single-meaning "only one" and Father meaning "male parent." And to further clarify, Parent is defined simply as "a mother or father" (source: WordSmyth Educational Dictionary).
Why is there so much disagreement and controversy over this label?
Society seems to reduce everything to black and white and has trouble seeing shades of gray. We have winners and losers, liberal and conservative, big business and labor, and the list goes on. Included in this list are the terms "custodial parents" and "non-custodial parents" and society seems to hold true to form on this subject--typically viewing the custodial parent as winner and the non-custodial parent as loser. Knowing this, it further confuses society if the terms single father or mother have nothing to do with custody. For, if we remove the custody framework from the words then the black and white is gone and people can no longer make quick and easy (and often incorrect) judgments. So society has come to use these terms to pass judgement as well as identify people. This doesn't mean it's been right--just the easy way out.
The controversy also stems from some custodial parents who feel the label single mother/father/parent should only apply to their situation (and, in some cases their feelings of superiority over the non-custodial parent) and the label provides too much "recognition" when used by someone without custody. This is the "badge of honor" usage of the term single parent/mother/father when used in this context. They view the title as being a very positive one that should be kept from those who they feel are inferior to them in some, or many, respects.
Somewhat related to the definition of Single Father is the use of just the individual terms father, dad, and parent. Many single custodial mothers detest others referring to their children's other parent as "Dad, Father, or even Parent." In these cases, the mother's are maintaining that the terms reflect something more than a label of biological connection, with the feeling that they also reflect a level of nurturing, concern, or love in their use. However, in reality, injecting these emotions into the definition is inaccurate. Even if dad is not loving, nurturing, or concerned-he's still a dad.
With the definition examined and understood you can probably imagine there are many different types of Single Fathers. Think of some you might know: Non-Custodial Single Fathers, Joint Custodial Single Fathers, Custodial Single Fathers, Widowed Single Fathers, Adoptive Single Fathers, Remarried Custodial Fathers. We can add other labels that might also apply: Active Single Fathers, Never-Married Single Fathers, Absent Single Fathers, Long-Distance Single Fathers, and Incarcerated Single Fathers. The good news is Responsible Single Fathers is open to all these dads, as well as moms and other people interested in working together to better our relationships so we can nurture, love, and support (financially and emotionally) our kids.