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.
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.
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.
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.
Men are keen to learn a broad range of caregiver skills and become better fathers, but often do not participate in family education. Reasons are both practical and psychological in nature, and point to the need to redesign family education – both in terms of curriculum, structure and process.
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?
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.
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.
Any work to promote good fatherhood is always rooted in a set of historical, cultural and social conditions, processes and developments. Understanding these factors and understanding the issues and perspectives that must thus be included is key to a successful promotion of new fatherhood models.
Eberhard Schaefer, MA
Iva Šmídová, Ph.D.
Svend Aage Madsen, Ph.D. (Head of project)
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.