A quarter of UK men over 42 do not have children. When that is not by choice, regret can grow into pain

Amelia Hill:

Father’s Day is dangerous for Robert Nurden. Childless not through choice but, as he puts it, “complacency, bad luck, bad judgment”, he tries to stay indoors and ignore the family celebrations outside.

But one year, he went for a walk. “I met family after family. There were children everywhere,” he remembered. “It was terrible. Just so painful. So many ambushes and triggers for my anguish.”

There is very little research into men who have not had children, although that is beginning to change. Research by Dr Robin Hadley has found that 25% of men over 42 do not have children – 5% more than women of the same age group.

Half of the men who are not fathers but wanted to be describe a huge grief and isolation from society. Almost 40% have experienced depression and a quarter feel a deep anger.

Now 72, Nurden had a sheltered upbringing. Reaching adulthood, there was a lot he wanted to experience. “Having children was a very low priority. I was complacent: I just assumed it would happen,” he said.