A COMPELLING CASE FOR DADS' GROUPS
A new study has found some astounding results...
Leeds Beckett University did some research into father-led community groups and this is what they found…
If you’re a parent to a young child you’ve probably noticed a load of dads out in the playground with their kids but hardly any in the local parents’ groups. And parents’ groups are often called or referred to as ‘mums’ groups’ anyway.
It’s not that fathers aren’t welcome, it just that they’re not being reached in the same way as mothers are, and they’re less likely to go, even if invited.
But a project by Leeds Beckett University has found that if fathers are asked to co-create and co-lead their own community groups, the results can be pretty astounding.
Researchers, led by Steve Robertson, Professor of Men, Gender and Health at the university, measured the impact of a community group called Salford Dadz Network. This is a group which was set up with the aim of allowing fathers to young children help other fathers, with the aid of some professional family workers.
By assessing the progress of the group over two years (collecting data from the diaries kept by the professionals, interviews with the fathers and women from the surrounding community, and workshops with the children, the university found the following:
- The project was crucial in building up the confidence of the fathers involved.
- There was a clear improvement in the children’s wellbeing, which was noticed by all groups interviewed.
- There were strong links between the fathers’ wellbeing and that of the children.
- The space created a safe space for men to explore the challenges they were facing.
- The men involved in the project were more likely to get involved because the project was run by other community fathers.
- Good parenting practice was shared among the group, and it had repercussions beyond the group, with many of the women learning them from their partners.
- The group helped families bond, and not just standard families, but estranged couples also reported an improvement in relations over the course of the two years.
- The project helped challenge the gender stereotypes held mainly by the women, some of whom believed the men were unable to take a lead in childcare.
The report found that many fathers had felt excluded from official and unofficial parenting forums.
It states: ‘Several had tried to access informal networks and statutory support services, either directly for parenting advice, or as a way of improving personal health and their capacity to engage as a father.
‘During such encounters, the men commonly described support that was tailored to the needs and preferences of women. There were numerous examples where men had felt ‘pushed out’ of vital, informal, ‘mothers’ networks at school, and also from a range of statutory services – including maternity and post-natal services, and children’s services in general.’
But after the two years, many of the 70 fathers helped by the project became volunteers with the project themselves.
Dr Robertson said ‘We believe that having a support network with community ownership is likely to engender sustainability as it is developed through local people’s skills, commitment and social networks.
‘By expanding their repertoire of acceptable (and beneficial) ways to ‘be a man’, men increase the range of coping strategies available to them to deal with the significant issues they face and thereby impacts on a range of daily relationships.’
The researchers have now been commissioned to study two new groups set up by Salford Dadz in the surrounding area, which is great news all round.
If you know of any good fathers’ groups, please let us know about them on Facebook or below.
:: The image above has been kindly provided by @topdadding and is unrelated to the project and the invididuals concerned.