Parent groups need to be more Dad-friendly

New study reveals that fathers are being locked out of support services

Content Editor / August 07 2018

First-time parent groups are excluding dads according to a new study from Deakin University.

Although the groups are officially known as ‘First-time parent groups’, they are often colloquially known as ‘Mother’s groups’ which is leaving fathers feeling left out.

As part of the study, lead researcher Norma Barrett interviewed a group of first-time mums in Warrnambool, Victoria, about their experience attending parent groups and the barriers they saw to their male partners coming along.

“First-time parents of either gender were actually invited to participate in the study, but tellingly only women volunteered to do so,” Ms Barrett says.

“These mums told us that parents group was an important support for them, but was not accessed by their male partner.”

Barriers to participation

Some of the common barriers included feeling that the group was framed as a female space and referred to generally as a ‘mums group’, sessions occurring during normal work hours, and the fact that only mums were invited to participate initially.

Some women also said that their partner did not want to be the only dad in the class.

Fathers who did attend initially soon dropped off because they felt they were in a female-dominated space.

The researchers also found that some mums were put off going to parent groups because they were afraid they would not be welcomed or accepted.

Changing times

“It’s also important to recognise that in Australia, more than 18 per cent of lone parents are male and the number of same-sex parents is growing,” Ms Barrett adds.

“We need to move away from the idea of a ‘mums group’. That means explicitly inviting fathers to attend, scheduling session times that suit working parents and ensuring that facilitators actively encourage father participation.

“Fathers are very active parents in contemporary households… yet our support services have not necessarily adjusted to this change in family dynamic.”

Researchers are currently working on another study to get new and expectant Dads’ views on the topic. For more information email:

Nicola Conville has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 20 years across a wide range of print and online publications. Her areas of expertise are parenting, health and travel. She has two children; Lucy, age eight, and Nathan, age five.