Fathering Research

father-daughterResearch conducted by The Fathering Project (University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University, combined with other research shows that:

  • Fathers are strong potential influencers.
  • Fathers often struggle to know how to be good dads.
  • Being a good father does make a difference.
  • A good relationship with your child is the best insurance against peer pressure.
  • Children need time with fathers and father figures.
  • There is a best practice for fathering – it is not all guesswork.
You can learn more about fathering through our articles about fathering, practical fathering tips, and email tips.

Past Research

Baxter, J. A., & Smart, D. (2010). Fathering in Australia among couple families with young children (FaHCSIA Occasional Paper No. 37). Canberra: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Read Fathering in Australia among couple families with young children online here.

Tohoto, J., Maycock, B., Hauck, Y.L., Howat, P., Burns, S & Binns, C.W. (2009). Dads make a difference: an exploratory study of paternal support for breastfeeding in Perth, Western Australia. International Breastfeeding Journal, 4(15). Read Dads make a difference online here.

Pleck, J.H. (2007). Why could father involvement benefit children? Theoretical perspectives. Applied Developmental Science, 11(4), 196-202. See Why could father involvement benefit children? abstract here.

Wall, G. & Arnold, S. (2007). How involved is involved fathering?: An exploration of the contemporary culture of fatherhood. Gender & Society, 21(4), 508-527. See How involved is involved fathering? abstract here.

Robinson, B., Cross, D. (2006) Fathers and Father-figures in Schools Video Project. University of Western Australia & Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University. Read the Fathers and Father-figures in Schools Video Project Report online here.

Beatty, S., Robinson, B., Cross, D., Hamilton, G. (2002) How Can Fathers be More Actively Engaged in the Drug Education of their Children? Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research, School of Public Health, Curtin University of Technology. Read the How Can Fathers be More Actively Engaged in the Drug Education of their Children? report online here.

Current Research

The role of a father or father figure in a young person’s life: is the quality of the relationship associated with the use of illicit drugs?

Investigators: Professor Bruce Robinson, A Prof Lisa Wood, Dr George O’Neill

Illicit drug use is an issue of significance in Australia, with extensive personal and wider societal consequences, and as such research investigating influencing factors for drug use remains important. Previous research has indicated that the quality of a father-child relationship may be an important factor in the protection from, or development of, drug use problems among adolescents.

This pilot study was conducted this year by three 4th year medical students (Philippa Gray, Katharine Bennett, Sherryl Houwen) under the supervision and direction of chief investigators Professor Bruce Robinson, A Prof Lisa Wood, and Dr George O’Neill at the Fresh Start clinic. It aimed to explore the nature of the childhood relationships between drug users and their father-figures, and to investigate whether there is an association between the absence of an appropriate father or father-figure during childhood and later illicit drug use. Participants were recruited from the Fresh Start clinic, a centre providing outpatient treatment and rehabilitation for persons with a substance abuse problem. Participants completed surveys that consisted of questions regarding their drug use, their relationship with their father/and or father-figure, and the influence of their father on their drug use.

The findings in this preliminary study support the theory that fathers and father-figures are an important influence on a child’s behaviour, more specifically drug use. However low sample size and lack of a comparator group limits the power and generalisability of these findings. Further larger scale research would be required to explore the significance of the trends identified within this small scale study. This is with the aim to derive enough information to help guide the education of fathers and father-figures in their role, with the view of reducing the incidence of drug use through positive influence during childhood.

Champion Dads: The effect of involved Dads on schools and the community

The Fathering Project has worked in both Independent and State Schools for many years.  Here is a summary of the best practice we have observed from schools with a strong ethos on building parent council volunteer opportunities.

  • Parent Council Meetings
  • Special Interest Groups
  • Leadership group
  • Informal meetings

Read the complete research

How Fathers and Father Figures Can Shape Child Health and Wellbeing

Investigators: Wood, Lisa and Lambin, Estée (2013). The University of Western Australia.

We shouldn’t underestimate the vast importance of fathers in children’s lives, not only because children ‘need and love their dads’ , but also because of the significant impact that fathers have on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical well-­‐being of children from infancy to adolescence and with lasting influences into their adult life.

This summary of evidence is based on a review of literature and research published primarily in the last 10 years. As there is a vast volume of research relating to parenting and children more generally, the review focused on evidence relating specifically to the influence of fathers and father figures.

While there is a growing body of evidence about the role of fathers in children’s lives, there are also knowledge gaps, and the quality of evidence varies. Although a concerted effort has been made to capture evidence about the positive influences of fathers on child development and wellbeing, it is pertinent to note that studies to date have more often focused on the negative impacts of poor or absent fathering on children.

Quite a number of studies have investigated very specific subsets of fathers (such as incarcerated fathers or those with serious substance addiction issues), but for the purpose of this overview, we have primarily focused on evidence that is applicable to general populations.

Read the complete research

Proposed Research

The Fathering Project is currently seeking financial support to employ an experienced researcher.   In particular,we are looking to develop a specific Fathering Resource area for FiFo dads on our website.

If this research proposal sparks your interest and you are interested in financial support, contact us.

Fathering in a FIFO World

Investigator:  Paul M. Pulé  PhD

There is a popular perception that the implications of Fly-in/Fly-out (FIFO) work arrangements are detrimental to the wellbeing of men as workers (Wolfenden 2002, Potts and Potts 2003, Tucak 2003, Mangan 2006, Quartermaine 2006, Wade 2007, Gallagher 2011).

In Western Australia, where the industry employs more than 56,000 people, 79% of all FIFO employees are men (ABS 2007). .Of particular concern for this research project is the lack of data revealing the impact of FIFO on men as authentic fathers – men who are committed, tolerant, supportive and perceptive dads who are solidly connected to their children. The purpose of this research project is to conduct research that supports men in FIFO arrangements to sustain an optimum balance between their FIFO work arrangements and their capacity to father authentically.

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