Dads see parenting courses as stuck in ’50s :(

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FATHERS are averse to attending parenting education classes and do not seem  to get the same benefits from them as mothers, a new study shows.

But it’s not the fault of  fathers. ”It’s as if parenting courses are stuck  in the 1950s where the gender division is accepted as natural and entrenched,”  said Richard Fletcher, head of the fathers and families research program at the  University of Newcastle.

A ”fathering blindspot” among practitioners and researchers meant they   were not being reached, retained in courses or studied separately to mothers.  Results showing the success of parenting courses disguised low attendance by  fathers and the lower impact the programs appeared to have on the few who did  attend.

The study, published in the United States journal Fathering, looked  closely at the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, developed by Professor  Matt Sanders and his team at the University of Queensland.


Over the past two decades the program has been adopted around the world and  evaluated – mostly positively – in many studies that showed  ”parent”  behaviour changed for the better, and as a result so did the child’s.

The NSW Labor government spent $5.2 million to provide Triple P trainers and  free lessons for parents. But only 14 per cent of the attendees have been  fathers, according to a recent independent evaluation.

Dr Fletcher said it was absurd a government-funded program should convey the  message  mothers should take all the responsibility for child development, and   it was the mother’s behaviour that determined the child’s success.

His analysis, based on 28  published evaluations of Triple P groups, confirms  father attendance rarely surpassed 20 per cent. Of the almost 5000 parents  involved in the studies,  983 were fathers. As well, while a large positive  effect on mothers’ parenting practices was noted, the effect on fathers was much  smaller.

”From other research we know fathers have an important role in managing  their children and influencing their development,” Dr Fletcher, author of The Dad Factor, said.  ”If fathers are not involved results will be  worse for the children.”

He said making  courses more father-friendly was not ”rocket science” and  involved  use of male facilitators, online courses  and a problem-based  approach.

Professor Sanders strongly denied the implication the Triple P program made  no effort to recruit fathers or that fathers did not benefit. ”The program  still had significant [positive] impact on the fathers,” he said.

Even if fathers did not attend, the improvement in child behaviour as a  result of the mother’s attendance led to a reduction in couple conflict. He said  though mothers usually bore the brunt of children’s behavioural and emotional  problems, the organisation was  researching ways to attract and retain fathers  with a British trial of online courses, and focus groups  to tweak  course  content.

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

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