Session: Menís Experiences, Roles, Behaviors, and Needs in the Perinatal Period (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

194 Menís Experiences, Roles, Behaviors, and Needs in the Perinatal Period

Saturday, January 16, 2016: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Meeting Room Level-Mount Vernon Square B (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Gender
Symposium Organizer:
Tova Walsh, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Carolyn J. Dayton, PhD, Wayne State University
Expectations for men as fathers have changed substantially over the past fifty years, and the change in gender expectations for fathers extends to their role during the perinatal period.  Historically fathers did not play an actively engaged role during pregnancy and were rarely present at the birth of their children.  Today, the majority of fathers are present at birth and, to varying degree, fathers may play an expanded role in the perinatal period, supporting their partner and taking on the role of father through a range of activities.  Learning more about men’s perinatal experiences and involvement is important because men’s support for their partners at this time may play a protective role in preventing negative birth outcomes and in promoting positive maternal and child outcomes. This symposium is designed to fill a gap in knowledge about the perinatal experiences and behaviors of diverse fathers, the consequences of those behaviors for mothers and children, and to identify opportunities to engage men during the perinatal period to strengthen their partnering and parenting and improve outcomes for mothers, children, and fathers themselves.

The first two papers report findings from qualitative investigations of fathers’ experiences with perinatal healthcare services, fathers’ support needs, and how they could be better engaged by perinatal healthcare services.  In the first paper, interviews with young, low-income, African American and Latino, first-time fathers regarding their experience with perinatal healthcare services are used to inform development of a conceptual model of fathers’ engagement with the medical service system and the impact of those experiences on their own and their family’s wellbeing.  The second paper uses observational and interview data collected in two different health systems to examine the ways in which fathers and clinicians view their role and address their needs in prenatal care.  Both papers present the perspectives of fathers themselves and illuminate strategies to better serve fathers and families.

The third paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to conduct logistic regression analyses of fathers’ perinatal partner support behaviors as a predictor of child low birth weight.  Results indicate that father’s perinatal support predicted significantly lower risk of a low birth weight baby.  The fourth paper uses data from the Paternity Establishment Study to examine the association between fathers’ birth presence and mothers’ socio-emotional wellbeing, and the possible mediating effects of father involvement, financial support, and relationship quality.  Results suggest that while fathers’ birth absence is significantly associated with decreased maternal wellbeing at 15 months, this association is largely explained by the extent to which fathers are involved, supportive, and in a quality relationship with the mother over this period.

Social work researchers and practitioners have essential roles to play in devising and implementing effective father engagement strategies to promote behaviors that will benefit fathers, mothers and children.  The strengths of this symposium include the presentation of qualitative and quantitative data collected directly from fathers themselves – samples collectively include widely diverse fathers and families – as well as the exploration of innovative intervention points.

* noted as presenting author
Examining Young Men's Experiences with Medical Services at and Around the Birth of Their First Child
Jennifer L. Bellamy, PhD, University of Denver; Ashley A. O'Connor, MSW, University of Denver
Expectant Father Involvement in Prenatal Care: Education Needs of Fathers and Clinicians
Tova Walsh, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Richard Tolman, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Paternal Perinatal Support Behaviors Are Associated with Positive Birth Outcomes
Shawna J. Lee, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Diana T. Sanchez, PhD, Rutgers University
Exploring the Role of Fathers' Birth Presence in Mothers' Mental Health Outcomes
Cynthia Osborne, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Daniel Dillon, MPAFF, University of Texas at Austin; Holly Sexton, MA, University of Texas at Austin
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