Boyfriends make the best fathers

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The Independent Online
UNMARRIED MEN who separate from their girlfriends make better fathers than their divorced counterparts according to a study that has been commissioned by the Government.

Based on research in the US, Europe and Britain, and conducted by psychologists at Lancaster University, the study challenges the traditional concept that men who do not marry and then leave their girlfriends, are likely to make bad parents. But they are shown often to have a much stronger commitment to their children than divorced parents.

Dr Charlie Lewis, professor of psychology at Lancaster, said the new study illustrated the fact that fatherhood and parenting was a "complex issue". "Often the breakdown of a relationship can make someone aware of their family responsibilities, and this is more so with cohabiting men."

The findings will be presented at the end of September to the Lord Chancellor's office which is reviewing the legal rights of fathers separated from their children. Its report is expected to be published later in the year.

Last night Tony Coe, spokesman for the Equal Parenting Party, a pressure group working to keep children and parents together after divorce, said the legal process of divorce was a large factor in alienating fathers from their offspring. "Children are used by divorcing parents to punish each other. The system is causing children to lose contact with one parent on a massive scale after separation," he said.

Trevor Lloyd, director of Working With Men, a support group for fathers, said: "Marriage is not relevant to fatherhood ... just because a rela- tionship has not worked out this does not mean they have stopped being good fathers."

The Government is studying ways of inducing greater responsibility among fathers. Paul Boateng, the junior Home Office minister, is working closely with Fathers Direct, an information service looking for a new fatherhood "template" to replace existing stereotypes. Mr Boateng said the Government was showing support in a "non-judgmental way", and providing pounds 1m for fathers' groups.

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