Who are non-resident fathers?: A British socio-demographic profile

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Social Policy


Eloise Poole, Svetlana Speight, Margaret O'Brien, Sara Connolly and Matthew Aldrich

Publication date


Despite international growth of, and policy interest in, divorce and separation since the 1970s, there is still surprisingly little known about non-residential fatherhood. This paper presents a ‘father-centric’ analysis and provides one of the first profiles of non-residential fatherhood in early millennium UK. Using data from Understanding Society Wave 1, a nationally representative survey of over 30,000 households in the UK, we found 1,070 men self-identifying as having a non-resident child under 16 years old (https://www.understandingsociety.ac.uk). We estimate a prevalence of 5 per cent of British men having a non-resident dependent child. Through latent class analysis, four distinct groups of non-resident fathers are identified: ‘Engaged’ fathers, ‘Less Engaged’ fathers, ‘Disengaged’ fathers and ‘Distance’ fathers. Our analysis finds that non-resident fathers form a heterogeneous group in terms of their socio-demographic profile and family behaviour. It is recommended that legislation and policy concerning fathers in post-separation families are sensitive to variation as well as commonality in socio-economic conditions and family lives and situations.

Volume and page numbers

45, 223-250






Demography, Young People, Family Formation And Dissolution and Sociology Of Households