Young dads have difficulties, that doesn’t make them deadbeats


There was great feature on Young Fathers by Yvonne Roberts in this weekend’s Observer newspaper.

Fatherhood is one of the key issues addressed and the National Conference for Men and Boys so if this topic is important to you then book your tickets for the conference online today here.

The feature highlights research that shows that children with involved fathers generally have fewer behavioural problems, greater emotional self-regulation, increased language development and improved cognitive skills. Evidence also shows that the more fathers are involved with their children when they are babies, the more likely their relationships with their children will be sustained over years, in spite of divorce or separation.

In the UK, the proportion of fathers who aren’t living with their child’s mother from birth is higher in Britain than in most other European countries. Though an often overlooked fact is the nearly half of these fathers attend the birth and are involved in some way at the beginning of their child’s life.

In terms of young fathers,  Roberts says, “if the relationship between father and mother is fragile, and the mother denies access, many teenage fathers lack the resources to fight for the right to be in their child’s life.”

Roberts highlights the work of the academics Charlie Lewis and Michael E Lamb, who since the 1970s “have challenged stereotypical and one-dimensional portrayals of fathers as “deadbeat dads” or “play partners” incapable of the serious business of rearing a child.”

According to Roberts, Professor Lamb argues that “good enough” fathers perform very similar roles to that of “good enough” mothers; they offer love, interest, boundaries and security.”

“For young fathers, however, the barriers to becoming a “good enough” dad are multiple and complex not least because, too often, their own needs aren’t addressed,” says Roberts.

“Many have little or no contact with midwives, health visitors, social workers or the staff of children’s centres. A study for the Department of Work and Pensions published last year describes ‘a cycle of disengagement’. ‘Low self-esteem leads to an inability to find appropriate support both because of a reluctance to seek [it] and a lack of available services. That leads to increased frustration and conflict with the mother’.”

Roberts quotes Chris Facey at the charity Working With Men who says:

“It’s very difficult for many of these young men. They have to sit through meetings with lawyers and social workers. Everyone has a negative perception of their abilities and they have to keep their cool. At risk is the real chance that if they show their frustration, even by an inch, their child may be put up for adoption. It happens. It takes maturity to handle a situation like that.”

Roberts also quotes the American author Mark S Kiselica who said in his book When Boys Become Parents: “For too long our culture has treated boys who become fathers… as detached misfits who are the architects of many of our nation’s problems, rather than seeing these youth for who they really are: young men trying to navigate a complex array of difficult life circumstances that place them at a tremendous disadvantage.”

You can read Yvonne Roberts’ full feature here: Too Young To Be A Dad 

To buy your tickets to the conference today please click here now. 

Give dads better rights says centre-left think tank

121018_bs_fatherandsonFathers need to be given greater parental leave rights if we are to tackle fundamental inequalities between men and women according to a new report on parenting by the centre-left think tank, IPPR.

The news comes as the Lib Dems prepare to reveal plans to increase men’s parental leave entitlement from two weeks to four weeks.

At the tail end of the 20th Century mothers and fathers had very little access to parental leave. This has changed dramatically in the past decade.

In 2006  New Labour introduced a parental leave system that was described by  Duncan Fisher, a former commissioner with the  Equal Opportunities Commission as  “one of the most unequal parenting leave entitlement regimes in the world”.

In 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised to reform this system saying the laws on parental leave marginalise dads and deny them the chance to play a hands-on role.

While the Coalition government has made reforms to the system it still  discriminates against fathers. According to Ben Moxham at the TUC “the incentives in place for fathers are so poor that even the government estimates that only 2 to 8 per cent of dads are likely to take this leave”.

The Lib Dems now say that: “We believe men and women have equal rights when it comes to working and raising children.”

This is a somewhat meaningless statement as mums and dads don’t have equal rights and the Lib Dems proposal to increase paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks falls way short of equality.

According to the IPPR, a progressive system “would not only provide the mother with a leave entitlement sufficient to protect her health and that of her baby, but would also support a similar paid entitlement for fathers. A third bloc of shared parental leave, also paid, could be split by parents in a way that works best for them and their family.”

The Icelandic system is held up as an example to aspire to, where from 2016 parents will be given five months of maternity leave, five months of paternity leave and two months of parental leave for parents to use as they see fit

“This is a far cry from the UK’s current parental leave provision: a year-long maternity leave (paid at a relatively low rate), two weeks of paid paternity leave, and a period of transferrable leave (up to six months, which can be transferred fromthe mother to the father),” says the IPPR.

“Allowing the mother to transfer leave to the father in this way reflects strong assumptions about maternal and paternal needs and responsibilities. It also means that fathers don’t have their own entitlement to paternity leave – they are dependent on the eligibility of their partner.”

Last week, the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said dads needs better paternity pay, saying:

“Unless the government raises statutory paternity pay, which is set too low, many dads simply won’t be able to afford time off work. In countries where paternity pay is higher, fathers play a greater role in their kids’ early lives.”

However, opposition to giving dads better rights is strong. According to Duncan Fisher:

“A business lobby, keen to ensure men do not bow to domestic responsibilities as women have to, and the maternal lobby, keen for mothers to remain in charge in the home, combined forces in an unholy alliance, and this Government, like its predecessors, was no match for the pincer movement from both sides.”

And yet parental leave is one area where the men’s and women’s lobbies could be working together as greater equality for dads at home means greater equality for women at work. As the IPPR puts it:

“Unless fathers are given greater rights to paid parental leave, more fundamental inequalities will persist.”


Wow! A degree in Working with Men and Fathers

imagesHere’s some interesting news from the University of Newcastle in Australia, the Family Action Centre has launched a Graduate Certificate and Master of Family Studies that allows students to choose “Working with Men and Fathers” as a specialism.

The University says:

“With one of these internationally recognised degrees under your belt, you will be able to pursue a career that enables you to make a real difference in people’s lives no matter where you are in the world.”

And you don’t need to be in Australia to study. You can apply to study Working with Men and Fathers or International Family Studies 100% online in Trimester 3 which commences in September this year.

The University says that including men and fathers in support services, policy and programs is at the cutting edge of family practice and being involved in this works makes you part of a global movement to support families by engaging with male parents.

“Among practitioners supporting families and children it is well recognised that fathers have a profound impact on how children develop,” says the University.

“The way that male parents offer support and take responsibility for children’s development can strengthen family resilience under stress. Research into father-infant and father-child relationships makes clear that for the sake of children’s healthy development services and programs should engage with fathers.”

“For professionals across the range of human services, from those dealing with abusive behaviours to those addressing disability, health and education, father-engagement skills are part of good practice. The study of fathers and fathering can offer evidence-based guidance to practitioners, managers and policy advisors wishing to support fathers to enhance their families’ wellbeing.”

Further information about the application process can be found here. You will also find program requirements, course fees and online study information on this site.


Cast Your Vote: What Kind Of Men’s Movement Do We Need?

YesNoAnne-Marie Slaughter, the former Director of Policy Planning for U.S. State Department has said that the world needs a men’s movement—so we thought we’d run a poll to see what kind of men’s movement our readers think the world needs.

To put the statement in context, Slaughter sparked an international debate with an article called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” that sparked a global debate about how women can (or can’t) balance family and career. Now she’s shifting her focus slightly to talk about how women AND men struggle with work-life balance.

“I really think we need a men’s movement, and you’re starting to see it,” she said this week. “Guys are starting to speak up for themselves about masculinity, about care-giving. You know, women are hypocrites this way, because we would go crazy if men treated us in the workforce the way we typically treat them at home — if a guy in the workforce assumed he was more competent than you are, and told you what to do — but that’s the way most women treat men in the household.”

So is she right and if so what kind of men’s movement does the world need? We’ve come up with 10 suggestions based on some of the key factions of the global men’s movement that we’ve come across over the years and produced a poll at the end of this post so you can cast your vote and tell us what kind of men’s movement the world needs.

Of course the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys is open to everyone so if you want to come along and take part this year then please buy your tickets online today.


1.    A Men’s Liberation Movement

A global men’s liberation movement would be pro-feminist and focussed on liberating men from rigid gender roles on the past and helping men to address unhealthy male behaviours and develop and promote healthy masculinity.

2.    A Men’s Human Rights Movement

A global men’s human rights movement would tackle feminism head on and address all the areas of life where men’s human rights are under attack, with a particular focus on tackling laws, policies and initiatives that favour women and girls and discriminate against men and boys in the process.

3.    A  Men’s Rites of Passage Movement

A Men’s Rites of Passage Movement would ensure that all men and boys had the opportunity to take part in rites of passage work with the support of other men and help every boy make a safe and healthy transition into manhood in the process.

4.    An Integral Men’s Movement

An Integral Global Men’s Movement would seek to unite everyone committed to improving the lives of men and boys no matter what perspective they came from and seek out areas of common interest and opportunities to work together for the greater good.

5.    A Men’s Social Justice Movement

A Men’s Social Justice Movement would focus on areas where men and boys experience inequality or problems with their health, education, family life, personal safety, social care needs etc and take action to find solutions to these issues.

6.    A Religious Men’s Movement

A Religious Men’s Movement would help to solve the problems that involve men and boys by actively working to bring more men to God—with a focus on one religion only (whatever that religion is).

7.    An Interfaith Men’s Movement

An Interfaith Men’s Movement would work across religious boundaries to help solve the problems that involve men and boys by actively working to bring more men to a life of faith, no matter what that faith is.

8.     A Fathers’ Rights Movement

A Fathers’ Rights Movement would seek to ensure that every child knows the love of their father by tackling the failings of the world’s legal systems which favour mothers particularly when parents are separated.

9.    A Shared Parenting Movement

A Shared Parenting Movement would work to unite mums and dads to help men and women equally share the responsibility of caring for their children, looking after the home and earning money through a rewarding career.

10. A Men Go Their Own Way Movement

A Men Go Their Own Way Movement would encourage and support men to “go their own way” and live their lives free from any problems associated with being in a long-term relationship with a women.

So what kind of men’s movement do you think the world needs? Cast your vote below now. You can vote for more than one option if you want to and please feel free to share this page with others so more people can cast a vote today. Thanks for taking part, getting involved and taking action today.

And now you’ve voted why not join the movement towards the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys and buy your tickets today.

What kind of father will Prince William be?

Charles Diana William Mother Father Royal Baby

What kind of father does the nation need the future King of the United Kingdom to be? Should he parent like his father or his mother? Here we summarize two commentators who have speculated on Prince William’s parenting potential. Both think he has a great parenting role model, but they don’t agree on who that role model is.

Penny Juror in the Daily Telegraph was full of praise and optimism for royal fathering writing last month that Prince William has had the benefit of an excellent role model in Prince Charles:

“There is a Father’s Day saying: ‘’Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys’, she wrote.

“To many people’s surprise, Charles turned out to be a rather good father – in very difficult circumstances. Charles was a big man who cared about his small boys and had a lasting influence over them. The question is, will William follow his father’s model of parenting, albeit with a happier marriage (we trust), or will he want to give his own child something rather different?”

Fatherhood commentator Jack O Sullivan, writing for Prospect Magazine disagrees with Juror and says Prince William should strive to be a different kind of Royal father, saying:

“The traditional alpha male, militarised version of kingship for which royal men are trained, has long been irrelevant. In a democracy we don’t want an “Action Man” ruler in the Palace.

“So, what would be the best training for modern kingship? Not helicopter-flying or shooting the Taliban. Becoming an involved, hands-on parent is the perfect induction course. Raising children is a great way to gain the emotional intelligence that is a must-have for royal success in 21st-century Britain.

“The Windsors’s aristocratic notions of gender roles are unlikely to encourage such behaviour from a “real” royal man. They are still turning out alienating, militarised men, Pythonesque parodies weighed down by ridiculous medals.”

According to the Juror, the description of Charles as an alienating, militarised man couldn’t be further from the truth:

“The private Prince has always been very much more relaxed than the public one,” she says. “There have always been hugs and kisses for his sons; and he would readily fool around with them, pull funny faces or put on silly voices to make them laugh.”

Juror also reveals some of the problems that Charles’ hands-on parenting style caused his valets over the years —not a problem many dads have to contend with!

“One of the biggest challenges his valets used to have when the children were small was cleaning sheep droppings from his suits,” she writes. “Whenever he arrived at Highgrove by helicopter, it landed in a field by the house where sheep grazed. The moment the boys heard it coming they would excitedly rush out to meet him. They would race into the field and leap into his arms for a hug, smearing his suit with everything they had trodden in on the way.”

This contrasts sharply with Jack O Sullivan’s account of the hands-off parenting style of the Royal Baby’s great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II:

“Who can forget her returning from a five-month Commonwealth tour and greeting her young son and heir, the four-year old Prince Charles with a gloved hand to shake?” he asks.

According to O Sullivan, the nation needs William to be a hands-on dad and spend more time with his child than his father spent with him saying:

“The first few months after the birth are crucial. That’s when hands-on skills and confidence in this realm are established. If Will misses the opportunity, he’ll be poorly qualified for the day job of understanding a nation. In setting limits on work and exploring the world of children and family, William would also be a leader for change, a role model, echoing the aspiration of today’s dads – and mothers – trying to do the right thing for their children and each other.”

Juror argues that Charles did do right by his children in difficult circumstances saying

“You just have to look at William and Harry today – confident, caring, well-grounded, hardworking – and the warmth of their relationship with Charles, to know that he got it more or less right.

However, Juror agrees with O Sullivan about William being a more involved father:

“If there is one caveat, it would be that Charles didn’t spend enough time with William and Harry when they were growing up – and I imagine William will strive to make sure he has more time for his child,” she says.

But O Sullivan is adamant that Charles is not the man to model his parenting on, saying that the key to William being a good father, is to be more like his mother:

“He has a great asset. Unlike older Windsors, William was well mothered. When Princess Diana went on long trips, baby William came too. A memorable film clip shows a generational shift—Diana arriving back on the Britannia, greeting her boys with outstretched arms. Diana hard-wired William to be the Royal family’s first modern king. He could, unlike his own father, make himself fit for purpose as a 21st-century monarch and not leave it up to Kate.”

If you’re concerned with the challenges facing fathers today, why not join us for the Third National Conference for Men and Boys. You can buy your ticket online today here.

When the Queen is Dead, Long Live the Patriarchy?

David Cameron will puff out his red cheeks for a royal baby-1512782Congratulations to the Royal Family on the birth of a future King of England — after 61 years of being ruled by a Queen, we now have the prospect of three Kings in a row to look forward to—which barring a republican revolution, could mean jobs for the Windsor boys way into the 22nd Century. All of which is surely great news for people who care passionately about sex equality in the monarch and means we’ll have plenty of time to get used to singing “God Save The King”!

It’s an often overlooked fact that we have been ruled by Queens for 125 of the last 175 years—so it’s time we gave the Kings a chance to show that real men can rule too. Despite the sexist laws of primogeniture that have given male heirs precedence over female heirs for centuries, you have to go back to 1901 to find an example of the discrimination in practice.

When Queen Victoria died her eldest surviving child was Princess Victoria who, had she come to the throne, would have reigned for just 7 months as she sadly died the same year as her mum. This would have meant that the throne would have passed to Princess Victoria’s son —the infamous Kaiser Bill who led Germany, Europe and countries around the globe into the First World War—how different history might have looked if that  hadn’t  happened!

The other quirky fact of sexism at Buck House is that we’ve had no end of Queens in recent centuries as the King’s wife generally gets an automatic promotion to the top job whereas the Queen’s husband generally has to make do with being a Prince—no sex equality for regal spouses there!

Of course, being a thoroughly modern monarchy we have now fast tracked the “Succession to the Crown Bill”  through parliament so that men will no longer be automatically the first in line to the throne.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords shows no signs of ending rules which deny most hereditary peerages to women. Currently, 92 seats in the House of Lords are reserved to holders of hereditary aristocratic titles and only 2 of these seats are currently occupied by women—though as many commentators point out, the best hereditary peerages “equal” is to scrap them all together and get more commoners in politics.

And one thing all women (common or not) have politically is their very own Women’s Minister but there’s still no sign of a Men’s Minister being appointed by any of the major political parties.

We debated the topic of a Minster for Men at the First National Conference for Men and Boys in 2011. We don’t expect we’ll be discussing royal babies at this year’s conference but the delegates set the agenda so who knows if this will still be a hot topic come September.

Fatherhood commentator Jack Sullivan has already written an interesting article speculating what kind of father Prince William could and should be.

Meanwhile our friends at NORM UK have been fielding media calls asking whether they think Wills and Kate will circumcise their son—of course, if they had a daughter, no-one would be asking this question.

It has been royal tradition in recent decades to circumcise royal boys though campaigners against medically unnecessary male circumcision are hoping this tradition will come to an end.

David Smith of NORM UK, who attended last year’s conference, says:” ‘as a 21st century parents we trust that William and Kate, like the rest of modern British parents, would not even contemplate it.’

If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on this year’s conference then buy your tickets online today here now.

Fathers’ v Mothers’ v Childrens’ Rights

stop male circumcision ukWhose rights should take precedence in law—mum’s rights, dad’s rights or the child’s rights?

The UK Court of Appeal had to consider this question recently when a Malaysian mother sought refuge in the UK in an attempt to prevent her husband—who had converted to Islam—from having their son circumcised.

Protecting boys from medically unnecessary circumcision and improving fathers’ rights to be involved in their children’s live are two areas of concern for many people who come along to the National Conference for Men and Boys.

To buy your tickets for this year’s event click here to book online now.

The case that the Court of Appeal heard involved a Malaysian mother who was brought up as a Sikh but converted to Roman Catholicism as an adult. In December 2006 she married a Malaysia man of Nigerian origin who was also Roman Catholic. Their son was baptized and brought up Roman Catholic but nt 2010 dad became interested in Islam and expressed his intention to convert.

The mother sought asylum in the UK on several grounds including the fact that she didn’t want her son to be brought up Muslim and circumcised for religious and cultural reasons. The mother’s legal representative submitted that the English courts would be unlikely to bow to the father’s wishes in that respect unless the mother also consented. She submitted that in those circumstances it would not be in the child’s best interests to return him to Malaysia where his father’s wishes would prevail over those of his mother.

According to Lord Justice Moore-Bick who oversaw the case:

“Male circumcision is a widespread religious and cultural practice which has ancient origins. It is usually, though not invariably, carried out at a very young age when the child is unable to understand what is involved or to express any view about it. Although invasive in nature and not commanding universal approval, it is regarded as an acceptable practice among communities of all kinds, provided it is carried out under appropriate conditions. These may include appropriate medical attention and the loving support of parents and close family members.”

Bizarrely, Moore-Bick, also said that male circumcision: “cannot be compared to other cultural or religious practices, such as female genital mutilation, which involve a far more serious violation of the physical integrity of the body and an expression of subservience.”

In truth the female circumcision performed on around 90% of girls in Malaysian is generally less invasive that the male circumcision that the boys are subjected to, as this article by a Muslim Malay woman on female genital cutting explains.

The fact is that male circumcision is different and sometimes worse than female circumcision and is a painful procedure often performed on boys without anaesthetic which can cause damage, disease and in extreme circumstances, death.

Despite this fact, it is perfectly legal for anyone to cut off a boy’s foreskin in the UK. but illegal to perform any kind of genital ritual on girls—including the Malaysian style practices that are generally less invasive than male circumcision. It is also illegal to take a girl based in Britain abroad for such a procedure.

In the case of this 7 year-old Malaysian boy, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that “he would be conforming to the broad expectations of the culture and society in which he would grew up”.

The court decided that it was in the boys’ best interest to be brought up by both parents which could only happen in Malaysian where the fathers’ (and the country’s) religion would take precedent over the mothers’.

So in this case the UK court ruled that the boys’ best interest was best served by putting the fathers’ right to choose his child’s religion and have his son’s foreskin cut off ahead of the mothers’ right to make the same choices and the boys’ right to choose for himself what happens to his penis when he becomes an adult.

It’s a ruling that is likely to anger intactavists (ie people campaigning to end unnecessary male circumcision) and fathers’ rights campaigners alike.

The reason this ruling may anger UK fathers’ rights campaigners is because they will struggle to understand why the court gave precedence to the rights of a Malaysian father in the name of the child’s best interest, when they will  point to cases where family courts fail to support children being brought up by both parents and give precedence to the wishes of the mother.

Both intactavists and fathers’ rights campaigners are welcome to attend the Third National Conference for Men and Boys in September.

To buy your tickets for this year’s event click here to book online now.

To find out more about unnecessary male circumcision in the UK see our post help change the way we think about male circumcision.