Fathers are the forgotten factor in parenting interventions

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Fathers have substantial impact on child development, well-being, and family functioning, yet parenting interventions rarely target men or make a dedicated effort to include them, according to research conducted by scientists at Yale and the Fatherhood Institute in London.

The team’s review of global publications found only 199 presenting evidence on father participation or impact, revealing insufficient attention paid to reporting father-factors.   

Their findings were published in advanced online form in the The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry on July 1; an accompanying commentary article has been published by the journal today.

“Despite robust evidence of fathers’ impact on children and mothers, engaging with fathers is one of the least well-explored and articulated aspects of parenting interventions,” says Catherine Panter-Brick, professor of anthropology, health, and global affairs at Yale and lead author of the study. “It is therefore critical to evaluate implicit and explicit biases against men in their role as fathers manifested in current approaches to research, intervention, and policy.”

The researchers’ results show that an overhaul of program design and delivery is required to obtain the necessary good-quality data on father and couple participation and impact.

The researchers suggest that in both research and community-based practice, a game change in this field would consist of unequivocal engagement with co-parents. This would strategically improve upon the exclusive mother focus that explicitly or implicitly marginalizes fathers and other co-parents in the bulk of parenting interventions implemented to-date. The team recommends a guide to develop best practices for building the evidence base of co-parenting interventions.

Other authors on the study include Mark Eggerman, research scientist at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale; Drs. Kyle Pruett and James F. Leckman at the Yale Child Study Center; and Adrienne Burgess and Fiona McAllister at the Fatherhood Institute, London, United Kingdom.

Article: Panter-Brick, C., Burgess, A., Eggerman, M., McAllister, F., Pruett, K. and Leckman, J. F. (2014). Practitioner Review: Engaging fathers – recommendations for a game change in parenting interventions based on a systematic review of the global evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12280

Commentary article: Getting fathers into parenting programmes: a reflection on Panter-Brick et al. (2014). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12321

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Marilyn Wilkes: marilyn.wilkes@yale.edu, 203-432-3413