Divorced or separated men who are trying to maintain an active role in their children's lives are being sought for a new study by a U of G researcher.
Prof. Anna Dienhart, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, hopes to interview men about their involvement in their children's lives after separation or divorce. The fathers may be the custodial or non-custodial parent.
"Fathers who are separated or divorced are often depicted as being 'good enough dads' if they consistently and adequately provide for their children financially, but this is not the whole story," says Dienhart. "Many divorced fathers want and achieve more than this. They are attached to their children, concerned about them, and work at remaining actively involved with their lives. I am interested in the experience of fatherhood after separation or divorce beyond providing for the children and why this is important both for children and for fathers."
Dienhart would like to speak with men about experiences that have made it possible for them to stay connected to and actively involved in their children's lives.
"Often, men experience stress and conflict with the children's mother as they work out how to maintain a strong relationship with their children after separation or divorce," she says. "It's thought that some men give up their relationships with the children to avoid that conflict."
Dienhart is interested in learning how men have negotiated with their former partners to stay involved in their children's life. She also wants to know how fathers help in their children's transition and in coping with their complex families.
She plans to conduct one- to two-hour taped interviews with each participant and analyse the interviews for common themes. Research participants will receive a summary of the results.
"Participation in this research will contribute to broadening and deepening our understanding of how men have navigated being an involved parent who is separated or divorced," she says. "I hope to create an appreciation of what is possible for men and their children."
She will take this understanding to her work in training marriage and family therapists, so they can help other families who are making the transition to separation or divorce.
Exploring alternatives to traditional parenting roles is a subject Dienhart has studied and written about extensively. In the 1998 book Reshaping Fatherhood, she studied shared-parenting couples and examined their resourcefulness and approach to parenting. She also wrote a chapter in the 1997 book Generative Fathering with colleague Prof. Kerry Daly that focused on how the role of men in parenting is undervalued in society.
For more information or to participate in the study, call Dienhart at Ext. 3975.