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Paternity sweet if tried

By Daniel Donahoo - posted Wednesday, 11 May 2005

No doubt Britney Spears, the spoilt brat of pop music, has a lot of growing up to do. All paparazzi lenses will be on Britney’s growing baby bump, but they should also keep an eye on third time father Kevin Federline. He has again embarked on the responsibility of fatherhood - a responsibility that many young men run away from.

Young Australian men and women’s aspirations are no different to Britney’s. Last October she told the world that she “can’t wait to start a family”. A month later an Australian Institute of Family Studies report showed that over 80 per cent of Australians aged 20-29 also aspire to have children.

Despite all the marketing of the single life and the perception that children put you at a financial disadvantage young Australians are still a clucky bunch.


We should take heart from this. Family, after all, is something we are all a part of. That there is still a strong desire among young people to create a family is a sign of hope in our world full of recent tragedy.

But, when many young Australian men are confronted with the prospect of becoming a dad they forget about their aspirations and disappear. Many young women make the decision to have a baby alone. This is sad reflection on the true staying power of young Australian men.

In 2003, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimated the number of single mums aged between 15-24 years to be 44,300. The ABS won’t release quotable data from single dads the same age because they can’t identify them. They know they must be out there, but when asked the question fewer than 600 young men put up their hands.

This doesn’t mean young men are selfish or cruel. It means they are lacking the support and encouragement from society to take on the challenge of being a young dad.

Young men are not receiving the message that to be a young dad with a partner and a child is desirable. Something inside them knows it is what they want, but when it arrives the pert models on the front of glossy magazines whisper sweet nothings in their ear and coax them away. They find themselves back on the nightclub dance floor grooving away for a freedom that offers them very little.

Is there really freedom in being single? The only real freedom is sexual liberation. And, the number of people who are prepared to sleep with you limits even that. Single life can be lonely. A frustrating search for a significant other - then another and another and so on.


Young men and women who want a life partner and children before they turn 30 are smart. A growing body of evidence shows that couples and couples with dependant children are financially better off than singles or single parents.

There are many young single mums proving that children enhance your life. They motivate you. They force you to do things you otherwise would not have contemplated. And, if those mums had a partner to share the experience with who knows what those combined forces would be capable of.

We must not blame young men. We need to encourage them, and support them to realise having a child is not the end of the world. It might be the end of single life, but it is the beginning of something new and more exciting.

Britney’s beau has already bailed on a partner and two kids. Media reports are that the expectant parents’ marriage is already rocky, which for famous Americans isn’t unusual. But, despite her millions of dollars, when Britney brings her baby into the world, she’ll be looking to share the experience with its father.

There is strength in the mother-father-child bond that we too quickly dismiss. Divorce is ugly, too prevalent and rarely a positive experience for adults or children. Our society should work harder to make sure those relationships can be strengthened and maintained.

If not for Britney, for all the other young first time mothers out there who need support and commitment from the father of their child.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on April 19, 2005.

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About the Author

Journalist and columist with The Age, Sushi Das says he is ‘one of today’s young rebels’. Author and ethicist Leslie Cannold has referred to him as one of her ‘gorgeous men’.

Daniel Donahoo is fellow with OzProspect, a non-partisan, public policy think tank. He writes regularly for Australia's daily papers and consults on child and family issues. A father to two boys. Daniel's first book is called Idolising Children and explores our society’s obsession with childhood and youth. Updates on Daniel's work can be found at

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