The Importance of Dads and Father Figures on Father’s Day and Every Day

The Importance of Dads and Father Figures on Father’s Day and Every Day

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The role of fathers has changed dramatically over previous decades. There is an expectation (and a desire) that fathers and step-fathers take a more active role in the lives of their children. Father figures and important male role models such as uncles, grandfathers, sports coaches and teachers also play a vital role in the healthy long term development of children.

Academic and author Dr Richard Fletcher says that there is now significant evidence to show that when fathers take a positive, active role in the lives of their children, fewer behavioural problems, improved social skills and better educational outcomes result.

When dads and positive male role models are involved with their children there are many benefits for themselves, their children, their families, and the wider community.

Research from Tweddle’s own Working Out Dads program, led by Associate Professor Rebecca Giallo from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, demonstrates that close involvement of fathers from birth can support positive infant and child development with lifelong social, emotional and academic benefits.

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

Joshua A. Krisch, science writer at Rockefeller University and former Science Editor for Fatherly reports that children who grow up with a present, engaged dad are less likely to drop out of school or be incarcerated compared to children with absent fathers and no other male caretakers or role models.

Conclusive research shows that babies and toddlers with engaged dads also tend to have higher IQ test scores by the age of 3 and endure fewer psychological problems throughout their lives when dads take the fathering role seriously. There’s a global scientific consensus on the importance of fathers during every stage of a child’s development.

But dads need support. Assoc Prof Rebecca Giallo confirms that 1 in 10 fathers experience mental health difficulties in the early years of parenting. Mental health difficulties can persist beyond the postnatal period for many fathers as evidenced by 8% of 2470 Australian fathers reporting a persistent pattern of distress from the first postnatal year to when their children were aged 7 years (Giallo, D’Esposito, Cooklin, Christensen, & Nicholson, 2014).

Australian studies of fathers have revealed that attitudes reflecting the need to not show emotion and not rely on others for support (Giallo, Dunning, & Gent, 2017) and inflexible and long employment hours (Rominov, Giallo, Pilkington, & Whelan, 2017) are key barriers to help-seeking for mental health concerns during early fatherhood.

Despite these barriers, evidence suggests that men become more open to healthcare during early fatherhood and are motivated to make positive changes for their child and family. This research underpins the importance of Early Parenting support services like Tweddle, and programs like Working Out Dads.

After five years of program delivery and evaluation, Tweddle’s Working Out Dads has now become part of a four year Murdoch Children’s Research Institute research trial to evaluate ways to promote men’s health and wellbeing during early fatherhood. Being a dad of young children can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be stressful at times. You can find out more about the Working Out Dads trial here.

This Father’s Day, we ask Dads to reach out for help, to join a group, to build a community of supporters and champions, because you are vital to your baby, child, family and community.

Resources for Fathers, Father Figures & Male Role Models

 


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