KESS 2 East PhD in Medicine: Supporting fathers in the antenatal period and early childhood years

Closing date: 15 March 2019

An exciting opportunity is now available to study how fathers are currently supported in their parenting role, and to make improvements that will benefit children and families in the future.

It is widely recognized that the family environment during early childhood is critical for the long-term health and economic well-being of children. Parental wellbeing and effective parenting are critical in creating and sustaining a positive family environment. For example, in Wales the First 1000 Days Collaboration aims to strengthen the support available to families in the early years and to use research evidence about what impacts on child health outcomes to develop its ongoing strategy.

While most attention has been focused upon mothers, there is an increasing shift to recognise and address the role and needs of fathers. Fathers have a key role to play but their level of engagement in available support services is low and there are important gaps in our understanding of why this is.

This PhD will explore the support needs of fathers during the antenatal and early years period. It will seek to understand key challenges and stressors for fathers, how support services such as midwifery and parenting services meet fathers’ needs, identify formal and informal support that fathers currently access and how they work, and explore ways in which parenting support can be changed to better address fathers’ need.

Key stages in the research will first include a systematic review of literature on fathers’ support needs in the antenatal and early years period. This will examine fathers’ experiences of support, barriers, and initiatives to improve support including for fathers across different socio-economic backgrounds. Second a substantial qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with initially 40 fathers and 20 healthcare professionals will explore both fathers’ and professional experiences of support receipt and provision.

Accessing fathers for interview, in particular from socio-economically deprived communities and exploring the complex nature of their support needs, experiences and preferences will represent both a key challenge and opportunity.

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