Recently I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of interesting events about fathers. The first, a really thought provoking day about gender and perinatal health, specifically exploring new research looking at postnatal depression in fathers. This work, really timely and much needed, is a White Rose Collaboration project led by Dr Zoe Darwin at Leeds University and Dr Paul Galdas at York University. For anyone interested in the project, more details about it, and the outcomes from the symposium are here:White Rose symposium report
The second event I attended was a conference of the Following Young Fathers project, again at Leeds University. This ESRC project was born (sorry about the pun!) out of the Young Lives and Times strand of the Timescapes Initiative, a project which I was fortunate to work on as a Research Fellow a few years ago. The Following Young Fathers conference presented findings from the three year follow on study which has tracked young men over time, exploring the transitions of youth to adulthood, alongside the transition from someone’s son to someone’s parent. More details of the findings and outputs from Following Young Fathers project can be found here: Following Fathers resources
Both these events, whilst divergent in topic, gave me the same take home message. Fathers are becoming more firmly on the research agenda in both health and family focused research. This is positive for not only our understanding of men as fathers, but of understanding child wellbeing and family, including couples relationships more widely. The second message from both events, and one which I feel is often the narrative of my blog posts, is that fathers face vulnerabilities, both from mental health issues relating to becoming parents, or by virtue of their youth and often resultant socio-economic precariousness. Such vulnerabilities require support, and investing in such support has value to families, not just men, but the whole family, and that can only be a good thing.
There is still more work to do, both in terms of research, and policy and practice, but as momentum grows, so does change, and those events gave me hope of that.