A key function of fathers’ ante and postnatal groups is to form social networks among fathers, finds a study from Sweden.
In Sweden, as elsewhere in the world, fathers feel excluded by maternal and newborn health services that focus on the mother as a parent. Parental groups before and after the birth are free in Sweden, but only one third of fathers attend those after the birth and, of these, only 25% say that the groups expand their social networks around parenting. Fathers groups started to be organised in Sweden in the 1990s as a response to this situation.
Researchers interviewed 11 leaders of fathers’ groups, all men, and found that a key outcome of the groups was continued social connections between the fathers. The key purpose of the groups is not to educate, but to empower fathers to invest more in their family relationships and to develop their own parenting style in an equal partnership with the mother. The leaders described the groups as a “gateway to equal parenthood”. They believed that fathers took more parental leave as a consequence of attending the groups.
Other topics frequently discussed in the groups include the relationship with the mother, childcare practices, breastfeeding and the fathers’ experiences of their own fathers.
Kertis B, Wells MB & Andersson E (2017), Father group leaders’ experiences of creating an arena for father support – a qualitative study, Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Photo: Sellers Patton. Creative Commons.