Contribution to the child development

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1.1 Research outline

This proposal will look at the hard to reach member of the family, where by little attention has been paid in their contribution to the child development, It will also analyze the differences that mothers and fathers get. Furthermore it will look at the legislations that are currently imposing these rights and the affect might bring to the developing child. Should fathers have the same rights as mothers? It will display the knowledge of today's society regarding parental rights and how the dimensions of a family have evolved. It will investigate the research that has been previously done, and then go on to look at what we propose the future research to be. It will surface any issues that we could foresee to arise, and then finally conclude.

The question which we are proposing to answer is “whether, fathers should be entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as mothers?”


2.1 A statement of the aims

The main aim of this report is to firstly investigate the rights and responsibilities of fathers, in comparison to mothers. This information will then be assessed, in order to determine if fathers should be entitled to the same privileges. From this a clear definition should be demonstrated as to the differences in parental rights and responsibilities and if this should be changed.

2.2 Objectives

In relation to the aims, the proposal has the following objectives:

  • Analyses previous research
  • Develop and encourage more research to the topic
  • Look at current legislation and the change that could be proposed.


3.1 A review of the literature

The current law relating to the parental rights seem to favour one side; unlike mothers, fathers do not always have automatic 'parental responsibility' for their children. This has increasingly push fathers to the corner where they find themselves to have limited rights with their children. Fathers who have children born after 1st December 2003, and whose name appears on the birth certificate have parental rights and responsibilities. However most fathers are unaware of their rights or have not much choice left for them, in which they are much excluded in any decision making. If cohabitating partner with children separated; fathers may have no privilege towards his own children, nevertheless; fathers with shock may find themselves have no right to see their children, cannot make contact with them, they could not legally take their children to holiday or not even take them to school or parents evening or give consent to medical treatment, Statically 1 in 3 children said to be born outside the marriage, some parents may not know what their rights and responsibilities are. Hence, the changes towards parental rights and responsibilities need to be considered for the benefit of the children.


In 1996 statistics regarding parenting were taken in order to assess their current situation. Over 230,000 babies were born to unmarried parents, were 3000 made agreements on rights and approximately 5500 fathers got court orders for parental responsibility. This resulted in a number of fathers not having the responsibility they would have liked and the amount of times this was taken to the court provoked a proposal for a change in the legislation.

In September 1999 there was an investigation done within Cambridge university, it looks at married and unmarried fathers view of their rights and responsibilities. This research showed that three quarters of all fathers that took part never knew there was any legal difference. This proposed change within the law, and to further investigate the restrictions the law imposed on families. What we categories as a family has changed, mostly the increase in the amount of cohabiting couples who become parents without marrying. About two decades ago this would have been rare, however at present 28% of babies are born to unmarried parents who register the birth together.

There have been amendments made to the current legislation in section 37, subsections (2) and (3) of section 23 of the Act amend the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The amendment in subsection (2)(b) gives parental responsibilities and parental rights to unmarried fathers who, in the future, register the birth of their child jointly with the mother. The registration must however be under one of the provisions referred to in subsection (3). At present, a father will only automatically acquire such responsibilities and rights if he was married to the child's mother at the time of conception or subsequently. In section 39, Subsection (4) makes it clear that a man whose child's birth was registered under any of the provisions for registration referred to in subsection (3) before section 23 comes into force will not gain parental responsibilities and parental rights as a result of the amendment made to the Children (Scotland) Act by subsection (2)(b).

Angela Cleland, the convenor of the child law centre in Edinburgh said she thinks proposed changes to the law would benefit children that were involved. She quoted;

“I know that many clients I have come up against think that because their name is on the child's birth certificate they have some rights, which they don't. If they have been involved with the child's life that seems to them very wrong and very unfair, and the centre would agree with them.”


5.1 Research methodology

In exploring the options of research methods, many were found. However through an investigation analysing feasibility, limitations and relevance of results, this can be limited.



  • There is no limitation on to whom you can send a postal questionnaire to.
  • It is easy to focus on a set target of people, organisations e.t.c.
  • You need compile one questionnaire, which is simply copied for all recipients.
  • The responses are gathered in a standardised way, so they are more objective.
  • It is generally quick to collect information using a questionnaire.


  • Questionnaires occur after the event, so some important issues can be forgotten.
  • Questions are standard, so there is no explaining, this can cause misrepresentation.
  • Open ended questions can result in a large amount of data, hard to decode.
  • Some people might not be interested in responding or revealing information.



  • The interviewee can provide more in-depth and elaborated answers.
  • Face to face interviews allow reactions and hesitations to be noted.
  • Personal experiences are easier to speak about, as oppose to write about.
  • The interviewee may feel an interview is more personally based.
  • The interviewer can if necessary add additional questions that may occur.


  • Difficult to arrange
  • Hard to get a large amount of interviewees
  • Costly
  • Time consuming
  • Suitable location to commence the interview, for both the interviewee and interviewer.
  • Hard to decode the information to create statistics.
  • Must be organized well in advance
  • Managers and company directors are generally very busy so hard to get to agree

Historical research


  • This provides information for comparison.
  • Gives data to be analyzed and to use as a proposal for change.


  • This information can prove to be hard to obtain.
  • This can be time consuming to research.
  • Can surface irrelevant information.

Case analysis


  • Gives real life situations to work with
  • Factual information spoke by judges
  • The likelihood of success in a case


  • Every case is different

5.2 The choice of methodology

The method chosen is very important as it will determine the approach of the proposal. The amount of data must be taken into account and the skills available in performing the research. The best possible methodology would be interviews, as the information we require is personal and can involve a number of emotional experiences. This kind of information is hard to obtain from questionnaires as closed questions tend not to give a lot of information and with open questions people tend to not go into enough detail. Interviews would give the opportunity to add additional questions and analyse emotions which would be useful.


6.1 An analysis of the feasibility of the research proposal

There are a number of ways we could occur problems throughout the research due to limitations and the feasibility of certain things. When doing a research proposal it must be reflective of the limitation. These should be discussed and analysed in advance, in order to show a plan of using the funds and resources. A list of these are specified below;

Cost -

the amount of funds that are available in order to carry out the research.

Methodology restrictions -

the cost of the research method it must be feasible, the experience needed on carrying out the specific type of research chosen must be available

Time -

the available amount of time allocated to perform the research, and if the methodology proposed can be done in necessary time.

Availability -

if the data required is available to access to analyse and obtain.

Travel -

if it is possible to travel to the locations needed in order to access the data.

Workers -

the amount of workers that are needed to carry out the required work and if they are available to use.

6.2 The research development timetable

In year one - Discuss objectives, timetable, feasibility and research study

In year two - Data collection and analysis

In year three - finalise, and complete


7.1 A discussion of ethical issues

There could be se tback regain information about births from the NHS, due to the fact that the research proposed is from third parties and not within NHS itself. This might limit the amount of information regards to who has signed a birth certificate, and if they were both present for instance, raising questions on people for private information about their family life and how they feel about their parental issues, so people could feel reluctant to give you information. In addition, obtaining information about children is proved to be difficult and time consuming, as consent from parent must be given so as the information about children could be protected. Furthermore, children view is very useful in this project although they are hard to get .


8.1 Conclusion

The current law on parental responsibilities is unsatisfactory, as all parents should be allocated parental responsibility as a matter of definite. Any changes made should be to the advantage of married, separated, divorced or co-habiting fathers. If these changes occurred it should reflect the current family situations, and allow family structure to be took into account.


9.1 Books

A.Burgess (1997). Fatherhood Reclaimed; the making of the modern father. Vermillion.

H. Conway. (1996). Parental Responsibility and the Unmarried Father. New Law Journal 31.5.96

9.2 Websites

9.3 Legislation

Children(Scotland) Act 1995

Family(Scotland) Act 2006

9.4 Reading List

L Burghes, L. Clarke and N. Cronin. (1997). Fathers and Fatherhood in Britain. Occasional Paper 23. Family Policy Studies Centre.

P. Townsend and A. Baker. (1998). Unmarried Fathers - Are we ending Discrimination at Last ?. Justice of the Peace. 28.3.98. Vol. 162. . No. 13

9.5 Other sources

Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK

RD v Children's Reporter

Lord Chancellor's Department consultation paper issued March 1998

9.6 Word Count

You might think that father's parental rights are reasonably straight-forward. Certainly the media would have us believe that fathers are being increasingly encouraged to take on responsibilities for their children's upbringing. But if a couple are not married the unmarried father may get a shock when it comes to paternity rights.

Men co-habiting with someone with whom they have children may get a nasty shock if there is a separation. Even though you both know that you are the children's biological father, you may have no legal rights whatsoever following a separation.

The law is complicated on this matter. Fathers with children born after 1 December 2003 and whose name appears on the birth certificate have parental rights and responsibilities. But fathers who fall outside this criteria may face a nasty shock.

Your former partner may allow you to see the children, but you will not actually have the legal right to do so, and certainly not the legal right to do any of the other things mentioned.

There are certain ways by which you can acquire what the law now calls 'parental responsibility through an agreement. In summary, a Parental Responsibility Agreement is required for all unmarried fathers where the child was born before 1 December 2003 in cases where an unmarried father of a child born after 1 December 2003 is not on the birth certificate for some reason where a heterosexual couple marry and the other party already has a child in all Civil Partnerships where either party already has a child, or gives birth after the couple become civil partners.

Woolley & Co can advise and guide you through the processes involved. Once you have 'parental responsibility' you will have exactly the same rights as any other parent.

If you are concerned about your rights as a parent contact us for advice from one of our specialist family lawyers.

If you are living together with no legal agreement you are encouraged to consider a prenuptial or living together agreement.