Engaging fathers – systematic review of the global evidence on parenting interventions by the FI and Yale University

5 September 2014

A team from the Fatherhood Institute and Yale University in the US conducted a systematic review of the global evidence on parenting interventions, and found that a ‘game change’ is needed in their commissioning, design and evaluation, to get fathers more involved and thus improve child outcomes and value-for-money.

Research shows clearly that fathers have substantial impact on child development, well-being, and family functioning. But the review, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that they are largely ignored by parenting programmes.

Thousands of parenting interventions are delivered mainly to mothers every year across the world – but the researchers identified only 199 that included some evidence of father-inclusion or father impact on child or family outcomes.

Among the 34 ‘exemplar’ programmes they highlighted, just three were from the UK: the government-initiated Family Nurse Partnership, Bath and North East Somerset’s Celebrating Fatherhood initiative and the Strength to Change programme for fathers who have perpetrated domestic violence.

In general, parenting programmes rarely attempt to engage with fathers or evaluate their impact on key outcomes for both parents, such as parenting and co-parenting quality, family functioning, parental stress or depression, or a range of child health outcomes, the researchers found. Cost-effectiveness analysis is also rare, but some studies suggest parenting interventions can produce a healthy return on investment and research shows clearly that programmes work best where both parents are engaged, so well-designed, father-inclusive programmes ought to be more cost-effective.

The review builds on the FI’s groundbreaking 2009 report Fathers and Parenting Interventions: What Works?, which is available as a free PDF download here.

Download the review

The reference for the research review is: Panter-Brick, C., Burgess, A., Eggerman, M., McAllister, F., Pruett, K. and Leckman, J. F. (2014). Practitioner Review: Engaging fathers – recommendations for a game change in parenting interventions based on a systematic review of the global evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  Advanced online publication: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcpp.12280/pdf

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