Fatherhood and health outcomes. The case of Europe

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Fatherhood and health outcomes. The case of Europe

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Publication Report
Title Fatherhood and health outcomes. The case of Europe
Author(s) Plantin, Lars
Date 2007
English abstract
In 1994, The International Conference on Population and Development established the importance of involving men in the challenge of improving sexual and reproductive health. Above all the emphasis was placed on developing efforts which would increase the man’s involvement in parenting and measures which could lead to the man taking greater responsibility for his own sexual and reproductive behaviour - ”including family planning and maternal and child health” (UN, 1994). The background for this was a wakening realization that men’s attitudes, knowledge base and ways of reacting not only influenced their own but also women’s reproductive health. Parallel to this development there has also been a growing academic interest in how men live their lives, create their male identities and form relationships to their immediate environment. One context in which these questions are being explored is in the research on men, masculinities and fatherhood. Fatherhood research has increased dramatically during the recent decade and also become a multidisciplinary scientific field of knowledge. Behind this development we can see several major changes in the late modern society, e.g. shifting marriage and divorce patterns and a changing work life with an increasing labour force participation of women. The growth of the women’s movement has also contributed to a strong focus on fatherhood since the possibilities of increasing gender equality in society require increased involvement by men in family life. The result is that today, scientists from different scientific disciplines are studying a broad variety of different perspectives and questions around men’s parenting. The questions at issue are no longer focused only on the topic of how fathers’ behavioural patterns influence their children’s development but are today also focused on the men themselves, their partners and how fatherhood is constructed in everyday practice and in relationships (Plantin, 2003). This means that a number of questions have been raised about men’s parenting, mirroring the positive as well as the problematic sides of it. The challenging and difficult side of men’s parenting has mostly been framed in discussions about “deadbeat dads” or “feckless fathers” that ignore their parenting responsibilities, and how this negatively affects the children’s emotional, psychological and financial well-being. Fathers' shortcomings in taking an equal responsibility for the internal family work and the household tasks is another example of problematic behaviour that has been discussed and related to negative effects on women’s possibilities to combine work and family life. Men and fathers have of course also been discussed in connection with domestic violence and other destructive behaviours that negatively affect their own as well as family health.However, another part of fatherhood research has challenged the deficit perspective on men’s parenting and instead focused on the positive sides of fatherhood that might contribute to better health outcomes. The significance of fathers for the development and well-being of children and adolescents, or the positive meaning of being a father are some examples of topics in this research. Discussions about various policies and legislation to support fathers in becoming more involved in caring for their children are also tightly connected to this perspective. Policies on parental leave or different forms of support to combine work and family life provide better opportunities for men to be more engaged and involved in all parts of domestic life. But more specifically, what do we know about the relationship between fatherhood and health? How can an increasing involvement by fathers in sexual and reproductive health contribute to a better health and well-being for themselves as well as their partners and children? Is there any “evidence” in existing literature that support the idea that men should be more involved during the delivery and the ante- and postnatal care? And what about gender equality and the late modern ideas around the “new, equal and nurturing fatherhood” -what do we know about the health outcomes of this? Do policies that support fathers to be both working fathers and caring men have any health impact on the men, women and children? The aim of this report is to take a closer look at these questions. The report consists of three different sections and starts with a discussion on the methodology for the literature review. It then continues with a chapter on Fatherhood and reproductive health. This chapter has a focus on the expectant and new fathers and discusses what we know about men's experiences of the childbearing decision, pregnancy and the delivery. How can men be supportive and engaged during these different stages in the “father-to-be” –process and how are these experiences related to health outcomes of the mother, child and men themselves? This chapter will end with a section that points out or highlights groups of fathers that might need special support and concern from a health perspective. The next part is called Managing fathering. On fatherhood and health in everyday life. This chapter focuses on fathers’ practices in everyday life and how this can be related to different health outcomes. It starts with a general overview of the research that has studied how becoming a parent, and in this case becoming a father, effect men’s health. Is fatherhood positive for men’s health as it adds a new meaning to life and a healthier way of living, or can it actually have negative effects as it means increased stress, marital conflicts and more worries? This is followed by a section that focuses on the possibilities for men to be both working fathers and caring men. It highlights existing policies for fathers in Europe to combine work and family lifeand investigates whether there is evidence for linking these to positive health outcomes. This includes policies on parental leave, parents’ access to day care and family-friendly policies at the work place. There will also be a special focus on the relations between the work-family boundaries, stress, illness and well-being. The next section will draw upon research studying the internal family life in Europe, with a special focus on men’s participation in child rearing and the household work. The fatherhoodchild relationship and the importance of fathers for children's well-being, health and development are also highlighted. Finally, the report ends with a Summary and end discussion where the main results are highlighted and discussed.
Publisher WHO Regional Office for Europe
Pages EUR/07/5061689
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Fatherhood
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Research Subject Categories::MEDICINE::Social medicine
Handle http://www.euro.who.int/document/gem/fatherhood_hlthoutcomes.pdf (link to this page)
http://hdl.handle.net/2043/4605 (link to this page)

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