This Research Brief derives from the 2016 Parenting Today in Victoria Study conducted and analysed by the Parenting Research Centre, and funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training.
Children flourish when their parents are supported. Fathers’ mental health and co-parenting relationships have a powerful effect on child development. For example, support from a parenting partner is associated with fewer behaviour problems and greater self-regulatory skills in children.
We know that fathers who are sensitive and supportive have children who develop better social skills and language — and these parenting skills can be learned. These correlations – which hold regardless of the father’s socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity – point to why it is important to involve fathers in preventive interventions to foster healthy child development. Such preventive interventions could be parenting programs, but also information sharing and support.
We wanted to understand the particular parenting behaviours, strengths and needs of fathers, and we wanted to know which characteristics of fathers – like mental health – related to how fathers parent. We were also interested in how fathers sought help and advice about parenting. This has implications for how information about what works in parenting could be successfully targeted to dads.