New Research Project Vital for Dads in the Early Parenting Years

New Research Project Vital for Dads in the Early Parenting Years

By Kerrie Gottliebsen

Tweddle Child & Family Health Service, in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), are set to launch the second series of Working Out Dads, a ground-breaking parenting program for 60 dads of children aged 0-4 living and working in and around Wyndham, Brimbank, Melton, Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay and Moreland.

Tweddle is extremely grateful to the program’s Key Funding Partners, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CFECFW) and The Bennelong Foundation, joined by community sponsors Hede Architects, Alan Mance Motors, The CWA of Footscray, The Bendigo Bank (Seddon) and Mr Craig Rowley, a proud dad from Melbourne’s west.

Working Out Dads is an after-hours therapeutic parenting program for dads, held in fitness centres across six western and northern regions of Melbourne. The evidence based, manualised program features facilitated discussion, handouts, text messages and exercise. Themes cover parenting, relationships, mental health, fitness and wellbeing.

The objective of Working Out Dads is to connect, support and strengthen the capacity of dads in the very early years of parenting, where research shows both partners are prone to experiencing stress, anxiety and exhaustion as well as relationship and parenting challenges. There is also a goal to become less isolated and more resilient and supportive during the transition to early parenting and to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Working Out Dads aims to address a significant gap in knowledge about the effectiveness of early intervention and prevention approaches to promote the health and wellbeing of fathers in the early years of parenting, to inform policy and best practice in promoting the mental health of fathers and the prevention of family conflict.

The MCRI will be evaluating the program which will involve asking dads to complete 3 surveys; before they begin the program, after they complete the program and a final survey 3 months later. Participants will receive a $25 gift card at the completion of each of the 3 survey occasions.

Evidence-based programs supporting fathers’ health in early fatherhood are scarce. Stigma, inflexible and long working hours and lack of services outside of business hours limit fathers’ access to healthcare and parenting programs. Despite this, Australian fathers have expressed that they want to be included in perinatal health care and engaged by health professionals about health, wellbeing and parenting.

There is burgeoning evidence supporting the contribution of fathers’ health to the wellbeing of their children. According to the 2013 Fathering Project paper, evidence from a systemic review of 18 studies indicates that father engagement positively affects social, behavioural, psychological and cognitive outcomes of children. More specifically, high levels of father involvement have been linked to a child’s higher levels of increased social responsibility and capacity for empathy, positive self-control and self-esteem and fewer school adjustment difficulties.

In 2017, 57 Working Out Dads participants came from 17 Victorian locations and 10 countries of birth. Dads reported that the program helped them to understand the importance of being ‘present’ around their children, being more mindful about reactions and that having a healthier lifestyle would be good example to their children. They appreciated that other dads were in the same boat and that talking to partners was important.

The Working Out Dads Key Funding Partners and Community Sponsors have joined Tweddle and the MCRI in investing in research for the benefit of dads, their children, families, workplaces and communities.


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