Dads and fathering courses

Dads left in the dark ... a new study says parenting courses aren't working for fathers.

A “fathering blindspot” means dads aren’t as likely to attend parenting education classes as their partners – and when they do go, they don’t get the same benefits, according to a new study.

But the study’s author, Richard Fletcher, head of the fathers and families research program at the University of Newcastle, says it’s not the dads’ fault.  

“It’s as if parenting courses are stuck in the 1950s, where the gender division is accepted as natural and entrenched,” Dr Fletcher said.

The study, published in the journal Fathering, looked closely at the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. The NSW Labor government spent $5.2 million to provide Triple P trainers and free lessons for parents, with most research showing a positive change in the behavior of participants and their children.

But only 14 per cent of the attendees have been fathers, according to a recent independent evaluation.

And while the program had a positive effect on the parenting skills of the mothers who took part, the impact on fathers was much smaller.

Dr Fletcher stressed the vital role dads play in family life, saying, “From other research we know fathers have an important role in managing their children and influencing their development. 

“If fathers aren’t involved, results will be worse for the children.”

He said making courses more father-friendly wasn’t “rocket science”, and that programs could benefit from the use of male facilitators, online courses and a problem-based approach.

Professor Matt Sanders, the leader of the team who developed the Triple P Program at the University of Queensland, strongly denied the implication that the course made no effort to recruit fathers, or that dads didn’t benefit.

“The program still had significant [positive] impact on the fathers,” he said.

It’s as if parenting courses are stuck in the 1950s, where the gender division is accepted. 

“There’s no doubt fathers are important in the lives of children, but there’s contradictory evidence on whether increased father involvement in parenting classes improves outcomes for children.

"It’s crucial in making courses father friendly they don’t become mother unfriendly," he added.

Have you or your partner done a parenting course? What did you think of it? Have your say in the Essential Baby forums.