Little is known about men’s abilities to form close relationships and strong bonds with their infants, and only limited research has sought to better identify vulnerabilities and risk factors during the transition to fatherhood,” she says.
“While new fatherhood is an uplifting, rewarding and wonderful time for most men it is important to be able to identify those men who may be at risk of a poorer adaptation, and to develop appropriate supports and interventions to assist these men, their partners and their children.”
Lightfoot indicates some gender specific risk factors which might contribute to a father’s problems, including:
small social support networks,
- small social support networks,
- a reluctance to seek help for emotional problems,
- the possibility of their partner developing mental health problems and later relationship disharmony (.e.g. reduced time in companionate activities, changes to leisure activities, disagreements about childcare and housework, declines in marital intimacy).
Her results also highlight the need to focus upon identifying whether there is similar or more marked distress in potentially more vulnerable groups of men. These may include, but not be limited to, men of indigenous, low-income, minority, adolescent, refugee or unemployed family backgrounds.
Lightfoot’s PhD research is being conducted through Macquarie’s Centre for Emotional Health, and is nested within a larger research study, Parental Age and Transition to Parenthood Australia (PATPA). PAPTA is being conducted by Macquarie University and Melbourne University in partnership with IVF Australia and IVF Melbourne.
Her study offers insights and better understanding of fathers’ experiences, which could help direct the development of appropriate supports and intervention to the most vulnerable men.