Welcome to the website on European Fatherhood.
We present information on men, equality, and fatherhood in Europe.
The content is for professionals working in the area as well as anyone interested in the subject.
Becoming a parent is a unique psychological experience for men too. It’s an opportunity for reflection and personal growth, and a challenge in terms of balancing life and work. Encouraging and helping fathers greet this opportunity and challenge in a positive way has significant benefits –for the father, the child and the family as a whole.
Preparing men to take an active role in child care is also is an effective strategy for preventing male postnatal psychological problems. Once such problems arise many men are still reluctant to seek help. The partner or a female relative often makes the initial contact to a psychologist or therapist.
The Scandinavian countries lead the statistic on European fathers taking parental leave. In most other European countries the actual number of fathers who take parental leave is low, and yet relatively high considering the barriers. The statistics indicate a strong correlation between incentives and parental leave.
Research has shown men to be just as capable as women of building close affectionate bonds with their infants and in providing the care needed for healthy psychological and social development in the child. Social structures must be created to make it easier for men to take time out to be with their infants.
Men too can suffer postnatal depression – especially when their partners do, but generally twice as many women are diagnosed. Historically the explanation for this was the female physiology. However, recent studies indicate that men can display gender specific symptoms and the concept of Male Postnatal Depression must be understood on its own terms.
The number of European men taking parental leave is rising, but how do men personally experience their leave? What kind of reactions are they met with by friends, family, colleagues and the community? What are the reasons for men taking parental leave and are their expectations realistic?
Fathers-to-be participate increasingly and are often very engaged in every aspect of pre- and post-natal services and activities. However, health care services often maintain guidelines and practices, which favour the mother and directly or indirectly exclude fathers from participating in birth related activities. New guidelines and practices are required.
Symptoms of Male Postnatal Depression are generally similar to women's. However, some men show different symptoms, which have not previously been accepted as depressive symptoms. The father's psychological well being significantly affects the child's condition;it is therefore of great value and importance to improve our ability to read these symptoms.
An untreated male postnatal depression can have many and serious consequences for the child and the family as a whole. Effective therapy should focus on the man's relationship with his own parents, and his current relationship with his child. Different schools of therapy have all shown themselves to be effective.
Information and understanding are essentials in overcoming gender stereotypes surrounding male postnatal depression. They are also key preventive measures, and should be provided prior to birth. Helping men who show symptoms of postnatal depression is of utmost importance as it supports the family as a whole.
In Denmark special training programmes have been set up to help health care and social service professionals assist men who are becoming fathers. Educational programmes have been run for midwifes, nurses, psychologists, psychotherapists, and social counsellors. Seminars and lectures have been held for GPs and obstetric doctors. A framework is suggested.
Men's increased participation in pre- and postnatal activities presents an argument for educating health professionals about male mood disorders related to the transition to fatherhood. The aim is to help health professionals become more attentive to men with depressive reactions to fatherhood and help them become more proficient in interacting with these men.
Services for assisting men in their role as fathers are still not well developed enough. This is mainly due to a lack of understanding of fatherhood issues and a need for greater skills of intervention. Fatherhood specific communication and services are needed to support men's transition to fatherhood – both in terms of men’s specific needs and occasional difficulties during this profound change in their lives.
Men, fathers and the issue of fatherhood is underrepresented in all aspects of child related research. It does not reflect changes in men's understanding of themselves as fathers and the psychological, sociological, economic and health related effects of these changes. This article maps the need for future research projects.
A study of how ethnic minority fathers perceive fatherhood, and how this inflects attitudes towards gender equality in the family as a whole.
By associate professor, Ph.d. Kenneth Reinicke
With support from the European Community - Programme relating to the Community Framework Strategy on Gender Equality (2001-2006).The information contained in this website does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission.