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A special day is around the corner and for people celebrating everywhere it is a time to honor what some view as the less sung hero: fathers. Father’s day is quickly approaching and in countless places people will take time to hug, mention, spend time with or grab gifts for their dad, daddy, papa or pop. While the day usually involves some quality time, or maybe a quick phone call, Father’s Day is more than gifts. It is a time to recognize fathers for their sacrifices and roles they play in their children’s lives. But ask around and one may find that not too many dads get excited about the day.
Not too long ago I spoke with a group of men to discuss fatherhood and each believes fathers do not receive enough recognition, and they may have a point. There tends to be a slew of attention given to mothers regarding commercials, advertisements or state programs. Fathers on the other hand, not so much. While the reason for the disparity varies, one cannot rule out tradition and/ or history as culprits. Fathers still carry traditional titles such as protectors, breadwinners or disciplinarians. And although parenting roles have shifted, fathers still face challenges regarding a lack of parenting resources and alienation from their children. Add this to the ever-growing body of men who did not have a father/ male figure to model after and the challenges increase.
I decided to do a search for Baltimore City, and while I was able to gain quick access to information about child support and establishing paternity, it was a little harder to find programs focused on enhancing the skills, development and healthy relationships of fathers. This is not to say such programs do not exist. Just that there are limited resources available to fathers that want to take an active approach in their children’s lives.
Disparities are not limited to social services. They also exist in healthcare and in the legal system. The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study to examine education programs and found “the overall state of the father-inclusive perinatal parent education program literature was poor, with few interventions available to fathers” (Lee, J., Knauer, H., Lee, S, MacEachern, M., & Garfield, C., 2018). Most often, existing programs tend to focus on mothers (2018). The Journal of Family Psychology published a study in 2016 focusing on gender biases and parental alienating behaviors. Researchers highlight that the perception of professionals (those in mental health and the judicial system) “often view fathers as being less effective parents than mothers…resulting in systematic paternal discrimination…which makes it difficult for them to be emotionally bonded” (Harman, J., Biringen, Z., Ratajack, E., Outland, P., & Kraus, A., 2016, p. 867) to their children.
So what does this mean?
Quite simply, research suggests fathers need more support and less stigma. Not offering viable support to fathers would be a disservice to their children, and will create a ripple effect of generations that lack the necessary skills and knowledge to flourish as effective parents. The intent in highlighting these issues is not to minimize the roles of mothers. Nor is it to paint fathers as victims; especially in cases where fathers have chosen to not be a part of their children's lives. The goal is to acknowledge the challenges of men that want to be active parents and systemic barriers that sometimes contribute to this difficulty.
Lee, J., Knauer, H., Lee, S., MacEachern, M. & Garfield, C. Father-Inclusive Perinatal Parent Education Programs: A Systematic Review. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 2018. pediatrics.aappublications.org.
Harman, J., Biringen, Z., Ratajack, E., Outland, P. & Kraus, A. Parents Behaving Badly: Gender Biases in the Perception of Parental Alienating Behaviors. Journal of Family Psychology, 2016, Vol. 30, pp. 866-874.
About the author: Latanya Muhammad is an advisor, group facilitator and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared on Reality Moms, Her View From Home, Blunt Moms, Mamapedia, and marriage.com. When she is not writing, she is wrangling her two children and husband. To read more of her work, or to connect, visit www.shetanagain.com and Shetanagain Writes on Facebook and Instagram.