Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

To Be a Better Dad

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

To Be a Better Dad

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter West, University of Technology Sydney

TRADITIONALLY, fathers were breadwinners and disciplinarians. Fathers taught their sons how to play football and encouraged their children to "buy a block of land". I've been researching fatherhood for 25 years and, in the past, the traditional role of the father was manifest. But this is changing substantially.

Today's fathers are far more eager to take on the job of fatherhood and are determined to be less distant and more hands-on than their own fathers.

The most emotional part of my book Fathers, Sons and Lovers was when I got men talking about what they wished their dad had done. One said sadly that it would have been great to get a hug from his dad.

The result? Today's dads are determined to take up the role and do it better. Research shows this desire even among adolescent males whose girlfriends became pregnant unexpectedly.

Diversity

Dads are diverse and becoming more so. Canadian fatherhood researcher John Hoffman introduced a review of fathering by listing all the kinds of fathers we need to keep in mind.

This includes men whose partner is the main earner; gay dads who have children from an earlier marriage; gay dads who have had children through a surrogate mother; men in various stages of separation and divorce; men who see their children only as their far-distant work permits; and men in cross-cultural and cross-racial partnerships.

Television programs like House Husbands usefully reflect the many and diverse types of fathers.

Why is fathering important?

My discussions with fathers found many did not feel confident with newborns. This resonates with Hoffman's research. New fathers feel less confident and need more support from families and friends.

However, the research also found that mothers were more successful breastfeeding when the father attended breastfeeding seminars, showing that the support of the father has empirical benefits in raising children.

Getting involved early is vital for men to do the many tasks of fathering in a way that satisfies them and their partners. …

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