Some might feel that attempting to engage men in services that promote responsible fathering is an exercise in futility. I would disagree. Working With Men (WWM) have demonstrated that engaging men in fathering programmes is not such an exercise. Evidence from their recently-completed three-year project in Islington, London, helps us to understand both how we can best engage men in fathering programmes and effectively promote their development as parents. Their work represents some of the most thorough and hope-instilling applied research on this subject that I have had the good fortune to review”
Dr Brian Masciadrelli
As the definition of family continues to be redefined in the 21st Century, many fathers do not live in the same household as their children; while some are able to continue to engage in collaborative parenting, others too often face significant barriers to co-parenting, compounded by barriers to accessing support even though they may have a strong desire to be involved in their children’s upbringing. However, as acknowledged by the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Parenting and Social Mobility (2015), the present culture of ostensibly gender-neutral family services has the tendency to inhibit access for fathers.
Research shows strong correlations between father involvement and child development: see Pleck and Masciadrelli (2004) for a literature review. More specifically, research suggests that both the quantity and quality of father-child interactions during early childhood years can lead to more positive social developments (Frosch, Cox & Goldman, 2001), fewer behavioural problems (Jaffee, Moffitt, Caspi & Taylor, 2003), greater emotional self-regulation (Roggman, Boyce, Cook, Christiansen & Jones, 2004), increased language development (Magill-Evans & Harrison, 2001) and greater cognitive functioning (Gauvain, Fagot, Lee & Kavanagh, 2002) for young children. Conversely, low father contact is correlated with a range of negative outcomes in children (see Flouri, 2005, for a review).
“I got into contact with [the worker] about my housing problem – I first met him at a Fathers’ Group. I am a single dad and have joint custody of my daughter (now 8) but live in a one bedroom flat. I’ve been on trips arranged by [the worker] and my daughter has had a good time. It’s great to get out – the last trip we went on it was raining but we had a great day – we would have probably stayed in and watched telly otherwise. I didn’t know there were things like that for dads.”
In the course of our extensive work with fathers from disadvantaged backgrounds and with Local Authorities, we have designed, piloted and evaluated different approaches, interventions and tools to arrive at a profound understanding of the barriers both to co-parenting and to accessing support – and the changes required to overcome these barriers. When services fail to engage with fathers, the narrative is usually whether the father chooses to engage or not, and the assumption is often that fathers choose not to engage. In reality, men’s construction of their roles as fathers, and their use or non-use of parenting support services, is a consequence of many factors that not only correspond to the father himself, but also the mother, the parental relationship and wider contextual factors
Our work is both evidence-based and practice-led, informed by independent research, our own research studies and outcomes of our projects. Our Fathers’ Development
Programmes have several key aims:
- to support fathers to be actively involved in all aspects of their children’s lives;
- to influence strategic and systemic change within mainstream family services such that these become father-inclusive whether or not the father resides with the family; and
- to engender cross-sector and multi-agency working to ensure a holistic approach to family support.
our programmes are designed to:
- remove barriers that currently inhibit fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives;
- build fathers’ confidence to better able to support the child and the child’s mother;
- ensure that expectant fathers (especially those under the age of 25) are equipped with the information and practical skills required to father their baby; and
- promote children’s development by bringing lasting change to father-child relationships.