Training needed to work with mums and dads as ‘parenting teams’, conference told

15 November 2010

Fatherhood Institute head of research Adrienne Burgess told delegates at the Engaging fathers as partners conference that the best way to help families is to address support to both parents at the same time – something many workers find difficult and scary.

“What’s going on within couples is what’s crucial. What you do with one affects what you do with the other, and this holds true whether they are together in a relationship or not,” she said. “So once you’ve got the dads through the door, you’re going to need to know how to talk to two parents at once. That doesn’t require a three-year diploma, but it does mean you need some training.”

Research shows that decline in relationship satisfaction after the birth is very common, occurring in an estimated two-thirds or more of couples; and that the best predictor of each parent’s adjustment to parenthood is the other parent’s adjustment.

Key messages for family professionals are that:

  • High father-involvement protects against relationship dissatisfaction and instability (by increasing men’s and women’s satisfaction)
  • Couple-focused interventions can impact positively on relationship quality, satisfaction and stability over a considerable period
  • Interventions focusing on ‘co-parenting’ and helping the mum and dad to ‘argue better’ can have a positive impact
  • Professional-led programmes of more than five sessions, combining ante- and post-natal elements, work best.
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