How do we react when a small boy toddler or young boy picks up a doll to play with rather than a truck or something we deem more appropriate to a boys upcoming role in life? Do we support them in learning nurturing and care giving skills or have we decided what a “man” should be? Do we allow our children to become the people they are designed to be by supporting their exploration into the world around them or by limiting them and dismissing their natural emotional and cognitive development?
During the course of my dissertation research I was approached by fathers who wanted to know more about what I was doing in my research. Fathers who did not participate in the study shared with me that as recent as last year, 2012, they had been involved in the birth of their child at the local hospital and attended the birthing classes and the infant care classes with the mothers. During their discussion they shared how unwelcomed they felt in the classes as the instructor was usually a woman who held eye contact and maintained the conversation mostly with the mother, and rarely looked at or addressed the father.
According to Doherty, Kouneski, and Erickson (1998) fathers are affected even more than mothers by “contextual factors.” These factors create barriers mostly for fathers and when these barriers are removed, fathers who are motivated, confident, and perceive that they are skilled will be involved in the lives of their children (Doherty, Kouneski, & Erickson, 1998).
More than 90% of the fathers are involved with the mothers at the time of their infants’ birth and this involvement drops to less than 50% by the time the child is of pre-school age. What barriers are we as a society putting up to keep fathers out? Do we place all the blame on them when there are not supports? What little research has been conducted on fathering compared to the burden we have placed on mothers for the outcomes of their children?
The question remains unanswered as to whether or not fathers are afforded the opportunity and accessibility to be present in the lives of their children, and whether there are social supports and societal norms that support or discourage fathers in their role of fathering.
Dr. May Kay Keller
Dr. May Kay Keller