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. 

Social workers must change how they work with men

7683883952_6fa0a03576Social workers need to revisit how how they work with men, according to Professor Vivienne Cree at the University of Edinburgh, in a recent article for Community Care magazine.

Professor Cree is an influential figure who co-authored the 1996 book Working with Men: Feminism and Social Work which promoted the principle that ‘women are our first priority… work with men is done in order to improve the quality of life for women’.

Cree has revisited the subject herself in the intervening years, in a 2008 Lecture—“Feminism: Past It, Lost Cause or Unfinished Revolution?“—she noted the post-feminist views of some of her younger female students who were making observations like:

“I believe that placing too much focus on feminism can take away from the idea that men and women should be treated equally. It may allow for an excessive amount of sympathy for women, which will not promote their equality to men.”

And also:

“I think men are left out too much and there is a risk of seeing women as ‘victims’.”

Speaking for herself in 2013 Cree says:

“Those who do manage to engage with men often do so in the context of challenging their problematic behaviour. Men are still, more often than not, seen as the problem: they are presented as the absent fathers, abusive partners, sexual predators and generally bad examples for their children.

“This is not, of course, to suggest that there have been no changes. Fathers today are much more likely to be involved in the care of their children, especially their younger children, and some social work researchers have explored the positive value that this brings to children and communities.

“But this must be viewed in the context of what is a daily onslaught of ‘bad news’ stories about men: of gang rapes of women in India; of young women being locked up for years in a basement in the US; of children being sexually exploited at home and abroad.

“Men are, more than ever, presented as dangerous to themselves and others. Women and children, on the other hand, are increasingly seen as vulnerable and in need of protection.

“Of course, this is a caricature; I have painted a very black and white picture of binary opposites. Life is much more complex and uncertain, as evidence of women who abuse and men who care for others demonstrate.

“My point, however, is that this caricature is incredibly powerful. It seeps into all our dealings with others and may lead to very risk-averse, negative encounters with men in social work. Social work must now revisit how it works with men, learning some of the lessons of the past and accepting the complexity of the lives of women, men and children today.”

Further Reading:

Tackling anti-men attitudes in social work

Feminism: Past It, Lost Cause or Unfinished Revolution

Feminism in social work: revisiting how we work with men

10 Tips for Social Workers Working With Fathers

Five Ways for Social Workers to Engage With Young Fathers