U. CHICAGO (US) — Support groups in the community and online benefit new dads and their families as they figure out how to become fathers.
The 2010 U.S. Census shows 1.8 million fathers head a single-parent household, or 15 percent of all single-parent families—three times the percentage reported in 2000. The 1970 Census showed only 1 percent of single-parent households were headed by men.
“Sometimes dads feel like they don’t get the same level of support that moms do when they become parents, but I think dads should seek opportunities from the beginning to be involved with their children,” says Jennifer Bellamy, assistant professor at the University of Chicago.
“Fathers should, for instance, try to go to visits with the pediatrician and ask questions about their child’s development,” she says.
“We know that fathers play with children in a different way than mothers do, they are more physical, and that benefits the children. That physical activity actually helps the children’s development.”
Successful programs are able to help connect young fathers with training and employment programs. School-focused programs, team-parenting programs, and community- based fatherhood programs are most useful in helping young dads develop.
Young fathers in effective programs are less likely to face criminal or substance abuse problems and are more willing to ask for parenting help. An evaluation of successful programs also shows they seem to reduce repeat teenage births.
The Texas Fragile Families Initiative program demonstrates how intervention helps young fathers, Bellamy says.
“Birth was often a magic moment for the young fathers, many of whom reported becoming more responsible individuals in response to the feeling of attachment they had for their children.”
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