Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK

- promoting responsible shared parenting after separation and divorce -

What do children need from their fathers? (review)

Cynthia Milligan and Alan Dowie (1998)

Centre for Theology and Public Issues, The University of Edinburgh; 1998; 79 pps (A5); 9.95 pounds sterling

This is a fascinating report of the views of children and adults about how children perceive their fathers and what they want from them.

This qualitative research, whilst lacking something in the presentation, warrants being taken seriously. It flags up important issues which need to be considered for further research and the report has wide implications for those involved in the formulation of policies connected with parenting and the family and provides a better understanding of the role of fathers. The report also contains a review of recent literature on the subject and there are many poignant quotations from those who took part in the study.

The project, which was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, was inspired by the International Year of the Family and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and a major catalyst was the statistic (obviously startling to the authors) that two years after separation nearly half of fathers have lost touch with their children.

Interviews with adults from groups which had particular concerns for children and families focused on: Interviews with children revealed that what they needed from their fathers was: Interviews with adults recalling their own fathers were less clear. There was ambivalence about the role of fathers, and the qualities assigned to 'good' fathers were considered by the researchers not to be gender specific (a point with which the reviewer does not agree). There was disagreement about the gender differences between the needs of sons and daughters, but there was agreement on the need for fathers to assume an active role in the home - although some would consider it preferable for him not to be present if he 'failed' to assume this role. Some adults felt that the quality of relationship between the parents is at least as important as whatever else children might need from their fathers.

Throughout the report the accent is on relationships. Our individualistic society has in many ways lost the art of relating - particularly in conflict. For those who advocate the current 'disposable parent' society there is the challenging statement:
'... children need from their fathers and mothers together a balanced, complementary, and stable relationship, and this is no less the case for partners who are separated from each other.'
The report concludes with some proposals for the future: The need for further research is highlighted in the areas of quality time, supportive behaviour, and setting boundaries.

There is also a suggestion that there is a need for the media needs to portray men as active parents rather than men behaving badly.


Available from:

Centre for Theology and Public Issues - tell them you heard about it here!
University of Edinburgh
New College
Mound Place
Edinburgh EH1 2LU

Tel: 0131-650-8944
fax: 0131-650-6579

UK post & packing: 1 copy 50p; 2 copies 75p; 3-5 copies 150p; 6-10 copies 340p

David Cannon

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