USC researchers have teamed with community organisation Dads Group Inc to investigate the significance of fathers in young children’s lives and support fathers who are navigating their new role.
“We know dads are important in a child’s life but in many aspects of parenting, the pressure and focus are on mothers who are often seen as a child’s main caregiver,” said PhD student and clinical psychologist Mary Gregory.
“Our team wants to add to sparse research in this area by studying the not-for-profit Dads Group Inc, to better understand the impact fathers can have on their own families.”
The project involves Ms Gregory; USC Research Fellow Dr Ben Lane, a Psychology PhD graduate interested in body image and masculinity; Dr Nicholas Stevens, Deputy Director of USC’s Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems; and Thomas Docking, Coolum-based founder of the national Dads Group Inc.
Ms Gregory, who recently developed online support tool BetterBonds to help parents build better relationships with their children, said there was a need for more services specifically for fathers.
“One in 33 Australian children has contact with the Department of Child Safety, which demonstrates the number of parents who are having problems,” she said.
Dr Lane said men faced challenges in negotiating a new identity as a father.
“It is only recently being recognised that supporting new dads also supports their families and ultimately contributes to healthy child development and addressing broader social issues such as isolation,” he said.
Ms Gregory and Dr Lane teamed with Mr Docking after his successful pitch to the USC Research and Innovation Challenge held in December at USC’s Innovation Centre. Together, they received a $3,000 grant. Mr Docking has since contributed another $3,000 from Dads Group Inc.
Mr Docking said the organisation aimed to foster happier and healthier fathers.
“We see dads who feel better connected, more competent and confident in their new role,” he said. “We see strengthened family relationships, especially between mums and dads, as well as dads forming better bonds with their children.”
Dr Stevens said the research would take a holistic, systems view of the issue of dads and their changing roles, while examining how the organisation’s model worked internally and externally.