Dad's Health Vital for Babies, Children, Families and Communities

Dad’s Health Vital for Babies, Children, Families and Communities


This Men’s Health Week Tweddle is highlighting the importance of Dads’ mental health to babies, children, families, and communities. While there are many services and programs focusing on birth, baby, and toddler care and mothers’ mental health, the same level of support for dads has often been difficult to find. Fortunately, things are changing.

When Tweddle piloted Working Out Dads in 2015, the Early Parenting organisation was trying to address this significant gap in health services for fathers of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

A few years earlier in 2012, a Parenting Research Centre study at Tweddle examined the mental health needs of fathers attending an Early Parenting Centre. The study assessed 144 Tweddle fathers who provided information on their symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

The majority of fathers admitted to the residential program had mental health symptoms, and one in five men were experiencing clinically significant levels of distress. The research findings demonstrated that the postnatal period was a key time for Services like Tweddle to engage fathers in support services.

Early fatherhood is a critical life stage and a potentially stressful time that can increase men’s risk of poor mental health. One in 10 fathers of young children in Australia experience poor mental health however research demonstrates that fathers are very open to help at this time, and want to be asked about their mental health by health professionals.

Barriers that prevent dads from seeking parenting support in the early years is impacted by stigma, inflexible and long work hours and services that are only available during business hours.  The Working Out Dads program addressed all of those barriers.

Working Out Dads is a free 6-week after-hours therapeutic parenting program for dads, held in fitness centres.  The program features facilitated discussion and exercise, handouts, and text messages. Themes cover parenting, relationships, mental health, fitness, and well-being.

The objective of Working Out Dads is to connect, support, and strengthen the capacity of dads in the very early years of parenting. There is also a goal to become less isolated and more resilient and supportive during the transition to early parenting and to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Working Out Dads participants have revealed that there was a sense of relief that there were resources and support out there that they didn’t know anything about and that other dads were going through the same thing.

Mums are pretty good at building a network of support so there’s little surprise that dads felt that while ‘mothers’ groups made things seem normal, dads didn’t get that opportunity” and that “The important thing was building that network of fathers that you can lean on for advice.

The Working Out Dads Timeline

  • 2015.  Tweddle developed the manualised Working Out Dads pilot in response to research and to address a gap in early intervention health options for dads of children 0-4.
  • 2016-17. The initial pilot evaluation with seven groups and 57 fathers demonstrated substantial reductions in depressive and stress symptoms and an increase in parenting confidence.
  • 2017. Successful Learning System grant and philanthropic support enabled Tweddle to conduct a second and more comprehensive pilot evaluation in partnership with MCRI.
  • 2017. WAIMH & Zero To Three Academic poster presentations
  • 2017. WOD Pilot Evaluation published in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
  • 2018/19 Delivered a further six programs in Melbourne’s West with pre and post program and 3 month follow up research study due end of Feb 2019 with thanks to the Bennelong Foundation and donors.
  • 2019 Two additional programs delivered with City of Wyndham funding support.
  • 2019 Helen MacPherson Smith Trust funds two additional programs and business case partnership with Social Ventures Australia
  • 2020 Collier Charitable Fund finance an on-site residential group for Dads (on hold for Covid19)
  • 2020  ‘Working Out Dads’ to promote men’s mental and physical health in early fatherhood: A mixed-methods evaluation published in The Journal of Family Studies Feb 2020  Giallo et al
  • 2020 Australian Government MRFF Million Minds Mission grant which will deliver collaborative research (RCT) into suicide prevention among 280 new dads and a rigorous evaluation of Tweddle’s Working Out Dads (WOD) program – A.Prof Rebecca Giallo et al (MCRI)
  • 2021 Two further Working Out Dads Programs

Tweddle has now delivered 19 Working Out Dads programs across Melbourne’s west. Overwhelmingly, dads have told us the program has helped to reduce stress, improve health and relationships and increase parenting confidence.

As one dad put it following his Working Out Dads program “We’re all still pretty connected. If anyone has an issue they’ll call up and everybody is more than willing to talk or hang out”.

Support Resources for Dads

Tweddle’s Dad’s Info Hub

Tweddle’s Parenting Info HubParent Info Hub

Raising Children Network – All about fathers

Mensline or phone 1300 789 978

Dads get postnatal depression too – An article by Richard Fletcher

On Being a Dad – An article about uncertainty by Leo Babuata

Dadvice from Beyond Blue – Pregnancy and new parents advice for new dads

How is Dad Going – PANDA



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