boy hugging parents around necks

Parenting programs help create more teamwork

A modified version of Group Triple P which has been run in New Zealand could be a game-changer when it comes to encouraging fathers to take part in a parenting program.

When men are treated as equal participants, rather than being thought of as just there to “support” mothers, they’re just as likely as their partner to actively participate in group parenting program sessions, the randomized controlled trial found.

Fathers in the trial, which was reported by the University of Queensland's Parenting and Family Support Centre blog, were also just as likely as mothers to benefit from parenting programs and so were their children.

There was also less conflict between parents about child rearing, and both parents were more likely to report significantly fewer child behavior problems and increased use of positive parenting practices, said study authors Tenille Frank, Louise Keown and Professor Matt Sanders.

“In the past, the view seems to have been that fathers are reluctant to engage in parenting programs,” said study co-author Professor Matt Sanders, “but this study shows that when fathers’ concerns are actively raised during participation to encourage their involvement, gender differences disappear.”

Historically, 70% of those who attend a parenting program are mothers, and the vast majority (90%) of those conducting the programs are women. Despite many social changes around gender and parenting issues over the last few decades, not much research had previously been done to see how best to engage fathers and to investigate the kinds of issues they’d like to see covered in parenting programs.

The trial incorporated a number of new strategies to engage fathers, such as:

  • Conducting research to find out what topics dads would like to see covered
  • Including more material about the benefits to children of increased involvement by both parents, and
  • Ensuring positive messages about father involvement were prominent in promotional materials.

Professor Sanders said the findings could also prompt providers to offer more flexible session times and on-site childcare so that both parents could attend together.