Fathers call for greater equality

Dads have called for more equality and engagement in their parenting role, so says CELINE MORAN, Parenting Specialist and ‘Being Dad’ report author, at the Childhood Development Initiative
Fathers call for greater equality

Fathers reported in a new study that relationships with their children were of great importance.

DADS have called for greater equality, more engagement and tailored supports for their role as fathers, in a new report on parenting.

These findings and more are in a report called ‘Being Dad’, published by community development organisation the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI).

The report showed some men struggling to be involved as equal caregivers and encountering obstacles – including economic, structural, psychological and interpersonal.

However, the study found that dads expressed their experience of being a parent as very positive and rewarding. Relationships with their children were of great importance and they wanted to be actively involved as equal caregivers.

Barriers identified were work commitments, lack of information and supports for Dads and a tendency to defer to Mothers as expert in child rearing.

Many dads expressed the view that despite wanting to be actively involved, barriers existed in interacting with health care professionals, with many feeling unacknowledged.

Celine Moran, Parenting Specialist and ‘Being Dad’ report Author at the Childhood Development Initiative
Celine Moran, Parenting Specialist and ‘Being Dad’ report Author at the Childhood Development Initiative

Sample quotes from participating Dads in the report include:

“I’ve been loving it, I’ve got a little daddy’s girl too, it’s really rewarding. I really like how she reacts to me.”

“I just love it – like I’m extremely happy being a parent.”

“Being a dad is – it’s quite an amazing experience, you know. It has its difficulties, but the good sides outweigh the bad sides of it.”

“I was walking on clouds for a good while. I was just in that blissful space and I was just overwhelmingly happy.”

Three major themes emerged from in-depth interviews with the participating dads.

1. Embracing Fatherhood

The dads largely expressed their experience of being a Dad in very positive and rewarding terms.

Their relationships with their children are of great importance and they expressed aspirations to be actively involved as equal caregivers in the lives of their children.

2. The desire for greater equality in caregiving

Several factors act as barriers to Dads being equal caregivers. Those include work commitments, lack of information and supports for dads, mixed messaging on their role and a tendency to defer to mothers as experts in child rearing.

Lack of supports for dads, expectant, new and experienced, was a significant barrier. 

Dads felt that resources, materials, and support groups were directed towards mothers, rather than both parents.

3. Seeking parity of esteem in encounters with health care professionals

Many dads expressed the view that despite endeavouring to be actively involved, barriers still existed in interacting with health care professionals.

Dads want to play active a role in the lives of their children, but lack of support for and acknowledgement of their role was an inhibiting factor.

Considering these findings, the Being Dad report recommended a systematic approach to engagement with expectant fathers, involving them from the beginning. 

Pregnancy and birth are the first major opportunities to include fathers as equal caregivers of their children and to support their partners.

To support fathers a range of information materials specifically on the importance of the father’s role, how to care for and bond with baby, support mothers and become a co-parent would enhance a family-centred approach.

Fathers are frequently not named in information resources for expectant and new parents, with the materials referring to mother’s partner. Many fathers attend ante-natal education classes, but some do not feel they address their needs or inform the transition to fatherhood.

To achieve change in father’s experiences of interactions with health care professionals, both maternity and community based, and to address inconsistencies reported in the inclusion of fathers, ‘father inclusion’ training is required.

The importance of fathers role, the long-term consequences for children with limited or no paternal engagement, and tools to integrate targeted approaches should be incorporated into training for health and social care professionals, hospital, and community based, working with babies, children, and families.

The report comprised a questionnaire and in-depth interview with 11 dads. Between them, participants had 16 children, aged between three months to thirteen years.

See www.cdi.ie and also from Lads to Dads and https://www.facebook.com/FromLadstoDads/

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