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The Importance of Dads

By OnePlusOne, 05 June 2015 Children, Cohabitation, Communication, Employment, Fathers, Legal, Money, New baby, New parents, Parenting, Pregnancy, Strengthening relationships, Stress, Transitions, Work-life balance

Recently, we have seen two pieces of research about fathers and their involvement with their children.

The first study from Oxford University[1] was a study of 15 first-time fathers. It found that regardless of what their intentions were about sharing roles with their partners, the dads in the study ended up in more traditional set-ups where the mother was responsible for raising the child and the father worked to support them.

The dads in the study felt that they were side-lined by wider society to the role of supporter rather than parent.  They also felt feelings of guilt as they tried to juggle both work and family, especially as most found it unaffordable to take extra paternity leave. In addition they also said that they felt under supported by health staff, and that services were focused on mothers.

These findings are supported by the second study, which looked further into the barriers preventing dads from accessing parenting support.[2] In a review of evidence Catherine Panter-Brick, writing on the Child and Family blog, found that there are a number of ways that fathers are marginalised, including cultural barriers, a lack of content aimed at dads, and a policy bias towards mothers (e.g. short paternity leave).

Evidence shows that if fathers are involved with their children and are able to take the time to give them support and affection then those children are likely to be happier and see benefits in their physical and behavioural development.1 In addition, when dads are more involved with their children, partners tend to feel more supported and this has a positive effect on the relationship between the couple, which in turn will also benefit the child.[3]

In my own experience, I know that I need the support of my partner when it comes to raising our child. It gives me a break and is important for my son to have some quality time with his dad. The antenatal class that we took was great at talking about dads and their role in the birth and in parenting. However, it seems that we were quite lucky and this is not the experience of most people. The second study, listed below, also looks at some examples of inclusive parenting programmes elsewhere – hopefully our policy makers will prioritise this sort of programme, and take heed of the lessons research can teach us.

[1] University of Oxford, “First Time Fathers Need More Support.”,

[2] Panter-Brick, “Parenting Programs Sideline Fathers with Long-Term Costs for Children.”,

[3] Reynolds, Supporting Couple Relationships: A Sourcebook for Practitioners. London, OnePlusOne.


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