Fathers’ Contributions to Infants’ Well-Being and Mental Health
Fathers and their attitudes to their responsibilities and children’s needs play a pivotal role in infants’ healthy physical, emotional, and psychosocial development. A lot has been said about emotional connections between women and their infants. However, fathers’ contributions are also drastically important when it comes to giving a child a sense of security and acting as a positive role model in terms of personality traits, behaviors, and mutual support between romantic partners.
Despite this ability to support children’s development in many aspects, fathers, especially young men, face barriers to accessing parent services in many developed countries. For instance, when it comes to information resources and services to teach parents about the necessary procedures, such as the introduction of solid foods, young fathers receive less support than young mothers or older couples (Mniszak et al., 2020). In Australia, fathers’ insufficient use of interventions and services to promote child health is related to multiple barriers, including their belief that all services are focused on mothers and poor advertising strategies (Sicouri et al., 2018). The cultural belief that fathers are breadwinners and mothers are carers also contributes to men’s poor use of parent services and educational programs (Mniszak et al., 2020; Sicouri et al., 2018). Therefore, parent services are still mother-centered and make ineffective attempts to recruit and engage fathers, which only reinforces the stereotype that masculinity and taking on a lot of parenting responsibilities are incompatible.
The aforementioned barriers should be addressed to consider societal shifts, including women’s participation in the workforce, and support fathers in their new roles. Although women have become more independent financially, evidence from Australia and Great Britain shows that many mothers still do not support “an active fathering role” despite their husbands’ enthusiasm towards caring for children (Buchler et al., 2017, p. 663). Thus, to emphasize men’s ability to fulfill their potential as caring parents and provide emotional support to children, it is essential to initiate the cultural reconsideration of masculinity and men’s role in society and raising children.
Buchler, S., Perales, F., & Baxter, J. (2017). Does parenthood change attitudes to fathering? Evidence from Australia and Britain. Sex Roles, 77(9-10), 663–675.
Mniszak, C., O’Brien, H. L., Greyson, D., Chabot, C., & Shoveller, J. (2020). “Nothing’s available”: Young fathers’ experiences with unmet information needs and barriers to resolving them. Information Processing & Management, 57(2), 1-14.
Sicouri, G., Tully, L., Collins, D., Burn, M., Sargeant, K., Frick, P., Anderson, V., Hawes, D., Kimonis, E., Moul, C., Lenroot, R., & Dadds, M. (2018). Toward father-friendly parenting interventions: A qualitative study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 39(2), 218-231.