The survey showed that two aspects of parenting, frequency of father/child activities and parenting approach – were related to how effective fathers felt as parents.
Fathers who believed in their own capabilities did more activities with their children and reported a more positive parenting approach, but fathers who felt less effective were more inclined to yell at or argue with their children.
“Some interesting findings were that fathers with poorer mental health were less likely to feel effective as parents. What we can’t tell is if it’s the chicken or the egg. Whether the mental health issue caused or led to the problem,” Dr Wade says.
“We know that it is important to address parent mental health. There is definitely a relationship there and it’s given us things to focus on in terms of outcomes for dads and ultimately that means better outcomes for children.
“In general we know that parenting confidence and parent mental health are strongly intertwined. When you have poor mental health you’re more likely to have a poor sense of confidence in your parenting. This was true for dads.
“We know that the support that parents have access to when they’re feeling low in confidence is really important. A big implication for dads in our survey was that dads were less likely than mums to identify someone they trusted and could turn to for advice.
“That has important implications for dads who are feeling low in confidence and who might be having a bad mental health day. Dads may have a greater need for access to services and support because they don’t have that person in their life that they can turn to.”
Dr Wade says it also means that parenting information needs to be specifically targeted towards men.
“We need to think about when and where the resources are available – are we offering programs at a convenient time for both parents to attend?
“We need to make sure the content is designed to be suitable for both mothers and fathers – not just are they blue or pink – but do they fundamentally speak the language that makes sense to men. Do the names and case studies talk about men and not just women and mothers?
“We know that men use online resources so we need to look at our online support and think about how we offer our programs and groups to make sure men feel invited and welcome.
“The good news is that there is really credible information already available online – the www.raisingchildren.net.au website is Australia’s official parenting website, and with over 10,000 page views per day, is already accessed by large numbers of Australian men and women.”