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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 15, 2006

Father's Day Should Celebrate Complexity of Dads, Says U of G Prof

Instead of celebrating the superficial greeting card version of Father’s Day this Sunday, Canadians should recognize the diverse experience of fathers and the positive ways fathering is evolving, says the director of the national Father Involvement Research Alliance (FIRA).

“We can’t talk about father involvement as a monolithic experience,” said University of Guelph family relations professor Kerry Daly and the director of FIRA. “Fathering occurs under many conditions and many family contexts, depending on factors such as age, ethnicity, marital status and sexual orientation.”

After interviewing more than 300 fathers from across Canada – who are either gay, young, immigrant, aboriginal, separated/divorced, new fathers, or with special needs children – FIRA, a community/university research project involving 10 universities and more than 25 community partners, has uncovered the complex challenges facing fathers from different walks of life.

The first set of results of the five-year $1 million research project aiming to increase father involvement shows that regardless of background, dads are involved in the lives of their children, are eager to talk about their experiences, and welcome information and support.

“What we’re picking up is that there’s a really strong desire from men to not only be involved, but also to talk about their parenting experiences as something that’s meaningful and important in their lives,” said Daly. “We had an overwhelming response of dads who wanted to talk to us and that’s a shift from 10 years ago where it was like pulling teeth to try to get dads to say anything about their experiences.”

The fathers interviewed spoke of being aware of a tradition of being invisible or overlooked in the lives of their children and are keen to step out of those traditional roles, said Daly. “Fathers are well aware that mothering and parenting are used interchangeably and that services often focus only on mothers’ needs and ignore fathers’ needs.”

As well as interviewing fathers and analyzing demographic trends in fathering involvement, Daly and his colleagues are hoping to draw more attention to the ways dads are being excluded in policies and parenting programs. “Fathers are affected either directly, or often indirectly, in the way policies and institutional practices perpetuate limited gender roles or fail to recognize the unique role of fathers,” he said. “It’s important for community services and workplaces to recognize that dad bring a different perspective to parenting and experience work-family pressures in their own way.”

Fathers in many of the clusters said that while their partners were likely to seek support from friends, families and community groups, they feel isolated by programs and policies that are often built on a model that favours mothers, said Daly. The researchers plan to explore different ways of supplying information and support to dads, such as creating parenting guides for immigrant fathers and videos for young fathers about how to provide for a child while minimally employed.

Highlights from seven research clusters:
● Residential schools that removed Indigenous children from their homes has meant that Indigenous fathers had negative or no experiences of being fathered themselves.

● Many immigrant and refugee fathers are at risk for stress factors, including social isolation, unemployment, trauma induced by war or enforced refugee status.

Gay fathers face challenging issues related to ‘coming out’ after having children, disclosure of sexual orientation to children and spouses, and entitlement to fatherhood.

Separated and divorced fathers face legal, emotional and financial issues and want equal rights to mothers in parenting responsibilities.

New fathers face difficulties in transitioning into parenting, and wish to support their partners and communicate with them about their life and relationship changes.

Young fathers are scared of losing their place in the child’s life and have very little power in having access to their children if the mother denies it.

Fathers of children with special needs are profoundly affected by caring for their child and experience a broad range of emotions. Parenting often takes on additional meaning because of the special needs of their child.

The project operates from the Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being at the University of Guelph. For more information, visit the FIRA website.

FIRA Director
Kerry Daly
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext. 56326 /

Cluster Groups:
Fathers of children with special needs
Ted McNeill
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-6786 /

Gay Fathers
Rachel Epstein
Family Service Association of Toronto
416-595-0307, Ext. 270 /

Immigrant Fathers
David Este
University of Calgary
403-220-7309 /

Indigeneous Fathers
Jessica Ball
University of Victoria
250-472-4128 /

New Fathers
Edward Bader
Catholic Community Services of York Region
905-770-7040, Ext. 237 /

Andrea Doucet
Carlton University
613-520-2600, Ext. 2663 /

Separated/Divorced Fathers
Edward Kruk
University of British Columbia
604-822-2383 /

Young Fathers
Annie Devault
Université du Québec À Hull
819-595-3900 Ext 2506 /

Zenaida Ravanera
University of Western Ontario
(519) 661-2111, Ext. 85151/

Donna Lero
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext. 53914 /

For media questions, contact University of Guelph, Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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