There is a welcome focus on engagement and inclusion of fathers in family work and in work with men who use violence against women and children. Whilst there is limited evidence based on ‘what works’ to engage men who use violence to change their attitudes, values and behaviours around fathering and privilege, there is emerging evidence that demonstrates engaging men as fathers is crucial in efforts to reduce family violence (Featherstone & Peckover, 2007).
Women partners of men who are fathers and use violence often articulate a desire for men’s behavioural change programs (MBCPs) to be inclusive of men’s role as a parent. We also know men who leave relationships can go on to father other children (step or biological) and/or have contact with the children who remain with their mother.
One Australian study found engagement with men was more effective when they were made aware of the possibility of harms to their children as a result of family violence (Broady et al; 2015). The experience of loss, or anticipation of loss (partner, child visitation) can also be a trigger for change (Hester et al, 2006).
Kildonan’s experience delivering Safe Dads (a MBCP which includes fathering as a core component) demonstrates that men are unaware (or claim to be) of the degree of impact their violence has on children. Both men and partners report the program has supported men to reflect on their parenting role and the importance of supporting their partner in her parenting. A focus on fathering has also supported men to acknowledge the impact of their violence on children and supported change to non-violence and respectful relationships.
This mirrors the findings of research – 80% of men in one study (Stanley et al, 2012) rated knowing the effects of violence on children as a highly effective motivator. This compared with 50% who stated ‘wanting to improve relationship with wife/girlfriend’.
Engaging and working with fathers can only positively contribute to improved safety, support and stability for children.
Jo Howard will be facilitating a Roundtable on ‘Men as Fathers’ at the Working with Men to Tackle Family Violence conference in Sydney in February 2017. Book your place by December 16th to save $300 on ticket prices.
If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic violence, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, 1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.
Broady, T.R., Gray, R., Gaffney, !., & Lewis, P., (2015), “I Miss My Little One Alot: How Father Love Motivates Change in Men Who Have Used Violence. Child Abuse Review, doi:10.1002/car.2381
Featherstone, B & Peckover, S., (2007), Letting them get away with it; Fathers, domestic violence & child welfare, Critical Social Policy, 27(2), 181 – 202
Stanley, N., Fell, B., Miller, P., Thomson, G., Watson, J (2012), Men’s Talk: Men’s Understandings of Violence Against Women and Motivations for Change, Violence Against Women, 18(11), Sage