The Families Commission has been investigating issues related to parenting since 2005. When we have consulted with parents, mostly mothers have responded. Fathers and fathering have been somewhat neglected in research on families. We know little about the circumstances of our fathers and their support needs, despite overseas research showing that families receive enormous benefits from loving fathers. A survey of the general population a decade ago reported that the main barrier to becoming an engaged father was the traditional attitudes held by fathers themselves, their partners and society in general. With no previous substantial representative survey of New Zealand fathers, the survey described in this report has provided us with the views of a larger number of fathers.
The Supporting Kiwi Dads project surveyed 1721 fathers in early 2009. The report provides a snapshot of a range of issues related to their role as dads, including support for fathers. The range of fathers surveyed in the report included stepfathers, single fathers, separated dads, teenage parents, foster fathers and fathers from a range of ethnic and social backgrounds.
The survey paints a picture of fathers who are very involved with their families; who see themselves as friends and playmates to their children, and providers for their families; who are largely satisfied with their performance as fathers; who do not talk or read much about fathering, do not attend courses and are not members of support groups; but who say that more courses would be a good idea, and that they would like more support services, without specifying what they should be. Their main problem is that their work commitments are preventing them from spending more time at home with their children.
On the whole, the results reinforce an image of New Zealand fathers learning by doing. While many of them learnt fathering from their fathers or other male relatives, they do not talk to them about fathering, and presumably learnt from them in the sense that they copied what they liked and rejected what they did not.
This report was produced by Francis Luketina of the Families Commission with Carl Davidson and Penny Palmer Research First Ltd