A study of 180 couples of 6-8 week babies, carried out in Guangzhou in China, has found that both mothers and fathers report feeling more competent and happy in their parenting when (1) they experience more social support and (2) if their partner reports feeling more competent.
For mothers, social support and paternal competence accounted for 21% of the variance in their scores for competence. For fathers, social support and maternal competence accounted for 14% of the variance.
Fathers overall reported less social support than mothers.
The researchers recommend a parenting teamwork/co-parenting approach: “To improve parental role competence and satisfaction, health care professionals should develop strategies that impact the whole family and not just a single individual. Supportive parenting programs should be implemented for both mothers and fathers.”
They note that only one third of the fathers in this study had participated in antenatal parenting classes.
The research used two existing questionnaires: Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (covering both sense of competence and sense of satisfaction) and Perceived Social Support Scale.
In large cities in China, western values and modernisation have influenced the social expectations and values of young men. Despite continuing differences in gender roles (in this study, only 12% of fathers helped the mother with housework and childcare), fathers are becoming more involved in caring for their babies and children.
Yang X, Sun K & Gao Ling-Ling (2020), Social support, parental role competence and satisfaction among Chinese mothers and fathers in the early postpartum period: A cross-sectional study, Women and Birth 33
Header photo:文韬 杨. Creative Commons.