Academic journal article Fathering

First-Time Fathers' Experiences of and Desires for Formal Support: A Multiple Lens Perspective

Academic journal article Fathering

First-Time Fathers' Experiences of and Desires for Formal Support: A Multiple Lens Perspective

Article excerpt

The transition to first-time fatherhood has been shown to be a stressful time for men and social support is a factor that influences this experience. Research on first-time fathers' experiences with formal support, such as programmatic efforts like childbirth classes and family education, is limited. This qualitative study explores first-time fathers' experiences with formal support, using data from focus groups with fathers and women with whom they co-parent, as well as community consultations with professionals who serve expectant and new parents. The findings indicated there is value in and benefits from formal support and at the same time there are limits in the current forms available for men. Suggestions are made to expand and tailor first-time fathers' formal support opportunities.

Keywords', first-time fathers, formal support, prevention, programs for expectant and new fathers

**********

Research exploring the experience and engagement of expectant and new fathers is a unique domain, sometimes called "first-time fatherhood," for an interdisciplinary set of scholars, including nursing (Fagerskiold, 2008), midwifery (Backstrom & Hertfelt Wahn, 2011; Chandler & Field, 2010), and various social sciences (Magill-Evans, Harrison, Benzies, Gierl & Kimak, 2007). One avenue of first-time fatherhood research examines how fathers experience formal supports that serve new and expectant fathers and mothers. (1) Another avenue examines how adjusting existing formal support programs such as child birth classes, or adding newly designed programs specifically for fathers (Brage Hudson, Campbell-Grossman, Ofe Fleck, Elek, & Shipman, 2003) could help increase the empirically grounded benefits of father involvement for children, mothers and fathers, as well as reduce potential risk factors of either the lack of father involvement or harmful behaviors (i.e., child exposure to domestic violence, child maltreatment) (Ericksson & Hester, 2001; Sharps, Laughon, & Giangrande, 2007). Overall, fatherhood researchers put forth the need and importance of research to understand fathers' experiences from their own perspective for the benefit of fathers and their families (Dubowitz, Lane, Grief, Jensen, & Lamb, 2006; Guterman & Lee, 2005).

Current research on the transition to first-time fatherhood, identified here as the point when a man becomes aware that he will become a father for the first-time and the subsequent two years, shows that it is a stressful time for men and social support is a factor that impacts their lives (Condon, Boyce, & Corkindale, 2004). However, despite the empirical knowledge of stress during this transition, limited empirically-based best practices are available to work with first-time fathers. From the relatively small number of studies, findings do indicate that fathers seek information on how to be a good father (e.g., Gage & Kirk, 2002). In addition, considering that the attitudes of practitioners who often engage with first-time fathers vary from interested to not (Kaila-Behm & Vehvilainen-Julkunen, 2000), further research and education must be conducted to assist mother-centered practitioners who often do not know how to connect with fathers or what to offer them. This may potentially lead to a relational disconnect that leaves first-time fathers feeling unsupported or ignored by formal support efforts (Deave & Johnson, 2008).

This qualitative study explores first-time fathers' experiences with formal support, using data from focus groups with fathers (N = 47) and the women (N = 9) with whom they co-parented, as well as community consultations with professionals who served expectant and new parents (N= 8). In addition, the study provides a unique look at how fathers and mothers describe their ideal program for first-time fathers. Implications based on the study's findings for engaging first-time fathers in formal support and areas for future research to identify and develop best practices are discussed. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.