Academic journal article Fathering

Positive Health Outcomes of Fathers' Involvement in Pregnancy and Childbirth Paternal Support: A Scope Study Literature Review

Academic journal article Fathering

Positive Health Outcomes of Fathers' Involvement in Pregnancy and Childbirth Paternal Support: A Scope Study Literature Review

Article excerpt

This study reviewed the literature concerning the involvement by European men in pregnancy and childbirth and examined how this is related to health outcomes; for the men themselves, their partners, and their children. The study also reflects on the literature in relation to other existing research on men, masculinities, and fatherhood. The literature review support the idea that the father's involvement during pregnancy and delivery can positively influence health outcomes for the man, his partner, and their children. However, little help is offered to the majority of men regarding parenting. It is therefore crucial for the maternal and child healthcare services to develop new ways of reaching out to men. In order to develop new knowledge earlier research needs to be complemented with a multidisciplinary approach where the existing research material, on social science regarding men, masculinities, and fatherhood is also taken into consideration.

Keywords: fathers, men, reproductive health, health, support

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During the last decade there has been a growing interest among health professionals, globally, in involving men in reproductive health. Milestones in this process include The International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 and The Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, where it was emphasized that men's attitudes, knowledge, and ways of reacting, influence not only their own but also women's reproductive health. Parallel to this development there is also a growing academic interest in how men live their lives, how they create their male identity, and how they form relationships with others. One context in which these questions are being explored is in the research on men's parenting. The research base on fatherhood has expanded dramatically in recent decades and has also become a multidisciplinary field of scientific knowledge (Goldberg et al., 2009; Plantin, 2001; Seward & Richter, 2008). Behind this development can be seen several major changes in late modern society, for example, shifting marriage and divorce patterns, increased participation by women in the work force, and the development of the women's movement with its focus on gender equality and the increased involvement of men in family life. The result of these changes is that a great number of questions have been raised in the research literature regarding men's parenting, mirroring both its positive as well as problematic sides. The challenging and difficult side of men's parenting has mostly been framed in discussions around terms like "deadbeat dads" or "feckless fathers" who ignore their parenting responsibilities (Blankenhorn, 1995; Popenoe, 1997). Men and fathers have, of course, also been discussed in connection with domestic violence and other destructive behavior that negatively affect their own as well as the entire family's health (Stover et al., 2003; Eriksson & Hester, 2001). However, the liveliest ongoing debate is related to allegations that many fathers have shortcomings regarding gender equality in family life and shared responsibility for children and domestic work. Numerous studies have shown that many men, despite expectations for a "new," nurturing fatherhood, still mainly act as financial providers for the family (Dermott, 2009; Lammi-Taskula, 2008). The reason for this, as is most often stated in current debates, is about the legacy of men's hegemonic power and men's interest in remaining in a position of power (Hawkins & Dollahite, 2005).

Another part of fatherhood research has challenged this perspective and instead focused on those positive sides of men's parenting that might contribute to better health outcomes for themselves and their families (Hawkins & Dollahite, 1997). The significance of fathers to the development and well-being of children and adolescents, and the positive meaning for men of being a father are some examples of the topics in this research (Bradford & Hawkins, 2006; Goncy & van Dulmen, 2010; Holmes & Huston, 2010; Markiewicz et al. …

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