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A father is the male parent of a child. Fathers may be categorised according to their biological, social or legal relationship with the child. Historically, the biological relationship paternity has been determinative of fatherhood. However, proof of paternity has been intrinsically problematic and so social rules often determined who would be regarded as a father e.g. the husband of the mother. This method of the determination of fatherhood has persisted since Roman times. The historical approach has been destabilised with the recent emergence of accurate scientific testing, particularly DNA testing. As a result, the law on fatherhood is undergoing rapid changes.

In each of these relationships the paternal bond describes the feelings the father has.



Biological (child possesses male parent's genes)

  • Natural father - the most common category: child product of man and woman
  • Surprise father - where the man did not know that there was a child until possibly years afterwards
  • Posthumous father - father died before children were born (or even conceived)
  • Child / teenage father - youthful father - may be associated with illegal sexual intercourse i.e. below the age of consent
  • Non-parental father - unmarried father whose name does not appear on child's birth certificate: does not have legal responsibility but continues to have financial responsibility (UK)
  • Sperm donor father - a genetic connection but man does not have legal or financial responsibility if conducted through licensed clinics (UK)

Non-biological (social / legal relationship between father and child)

  • Step-father - wife/partner has child from previous relationship
  • Father-in-law - the father of one's spouse
  • Adoptive father - child is adopted
  • Foster father - child is fostered
  • Cuckolded father - where child is the product of mother's adulterous relationship
  • Social father - where man takes de facto responsibility for a child. (In such a situation the child is known as a "child of the family" in English law.)
  • Mother's partner - assumption that current partner fills father role
  • Mother's wife - under some juridictions (e.g. in Quebec civil law), if the mother is married to another woman, the latter will be defined as the father

Fatherhood defined by contact level with child

  • Weekend/holiday father - where child only stays with father at weekends etc.
  • Absent father - father reluctant to spend time with the child(ren)

Legally fatherless children

  • Where man in couple originally seeking IVF treatment withdraws consent before fertilisation (UK)
A biological child of a man who, for the special reason above, is not their legal father, has no automatic right to financial support or inheritance. Legal fatherlessness refers to a legal status and not to the issue of whether the father is now dead or alive.


The most familiar English terms for father include dad, daddy, papa, pop and pa. Other colloquial expressions include: my old man.

Hebrew term "abba"
Yiddish term "tatti" or "ta"


Father is applied to the first Person of the Blessed Trinity, according to the Christian religion. He is the provident creator; he begets God the Son and God the Holy Spirit from all eternity. Jesus called him "Abba," a familiar term in Aramaic which can be translated as Daddy in English.

Father is also the title given to Priests in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches, as well as several other denominations. Father is the regular form of address used when speaking to or referring to priests from these churches.

The title Father is also applied to certain influential early Christian figures:

See also godfather.

See also

External links

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