Unsupported dads linked to kids' bad behaviour

The way parents work together is key
  • Deborah Condon

A child's behaviour is more likely to be troublesome in families in which the father does not feel supported by his partner, a new study has shown.

It is already widely acknowledged that the way parents work together can have a big impact on the behaviour of children. However, little research has been done in relation to the support parents feel from each other and what impact this could have on behaviour.

UK researchers decided to look into this further by assessing mothers and fathers from 106 families. All were asked about their relationships with their partners and their parenting practices. The children in the families were pre-school age.

The study found that when a father did not feel supported by his partner, the child was more likely to display negative behavior, such as deliberately breaking toys or acting defiantly.

However, the behaviour of children did not appear to be affected if mothers did not feel supported by their partners.

"Compared to mothering, the fathering role may be less clearly socially defined and fathers may withdraw from it. Whereas mothers - and fathers - may see the mother's role as less discretionary than fathers.

"Or it could be simply that fathers don't feel as confident or competent in their role because, although it is changing, commonly they are still less likely to be the primary child carer," commented researcher, Rachel Latham, of the University of Sussex.

She added that if parents want to improve how they co-parent, attention should be paid to how supported fathers feel by their partner.

Details of these findings were presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychology Society in Liverpool.


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