By: WeiWei Chan & Samantha Hysa, Early Engagement – with Bill Monro
Most new parent education in America is focused on the event of birth and avoiding medical calamities in the first year. A small fraction of classes offered prepare couples for the predictable and daunting challenges they will face after the child is born. Research shows the association between family mental wellness and children’s development,1,2,3,4 but few parent education classes seem to focus on family mental wellness.
Research supports a special need for fathers to receive prenatal parenting education.6,7 Fathers are increasingly involved in child care,8 and despite a strong research base that demonstrates the positive contributions fathers make to their child’s well-being and the negative consequences when fathers do not parent well,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16 very few existing parent education programs include fathers.17,18,19 The vast majority instead target mothers, which may prevent men from engaging in positive child care later. Only three researched parent education programs, to date, include fathers.17 When fathers are included in parent education programs, research suggests improved outcomes related to father’s involvement in childcare, father’s support of the mother, partner relationship quality, co-parenting relationship and the father’s mental health.20 One study of a father-involved family wellness curriculum showed that the program improved conflict management between couples, particularly in fathers. The program, called Bringing Baby Home, facilitated couples’ co-parenting skills over a two day, 10-hour workshop.21
Fathers may especially benefit from father-only parent education programming. In an initial study of a pilot program targeting incarcerated teen fathers, researchers found increased quality of parent-infant interactions following each class.22 In a study of another couple-based that separated fathers into a fathers-only group curriculum, mothers reported that fathers who were placed into the fathers-only group showed significantly more improvement in partner relationships.23 Fathers also report great appreciation for social support amongst other future fathers in parent education programs.24 However, few examples of father-targeted family-wellness focused parent education programs exist.25 The lack of father-only parent education precludes most future fathers from the benefits of parent education and may limit their ability to contribute to their future family’s wellness.
1 Antonucci, T. C., & Mikus, K. (1988). The power of parenthood: Personality and attitudinal changes during the transition to parenthood. In G. Y. Michaels & W. A. Goldberg (Eds.), Cambridge studies in social and emotional development. The transition to parenthood: Current theory and research (p. 62–84). Cambridge University Press
2 Frosch, Cynthia & Mangelsdorf, Sarah & McHale, Jean. (2000). Marital behavior and the security of preschooler-parent attachment relationships. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43). 14. 144-61. 10.1037//0893-318.104.22.168
3 Grossman, F. K., Eichler, L. S., & Winickoff, S. A. (1980). Pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers