Fathers' involvement in families with a child attending family and child psychiatry clinics : the relevance of childhood experience, mental health, and current relationships.
Fathers' involvement in families with a child attending Family and Child Psychiatry
clinics: the relevance of childhood experience, mental health, and current relationships.
There is now an ample literature on fathering and fathers participation in family life. Recent
work has emphasised the importance of intergenerational attachment patterns, mental health,
and parenting style and their effects on psychopathology in children.
This research examines the parenting of fathers where children are attending a Family and
Child Psychiatry Clinic. Fathers whose children attend such services are compared with fathers
of non-referred children on a number of dimensions to advance our knowledge of the
relationship between paternal characteristics and children's psychopathology. Factors relevant
to fathers' level of attendance are also examined.
Two groups of fathers, a clinic group recruited from two Family and Child Psychiatry services
in London's East End and a non-clinic group recruited from the community, each comprising
forty fathers of children aged 3-9 years, were interviewed using a semi-structured interview
schedule regarding their children, aspects of current parenting and the parenting they received
from their own parents. Both fathers, and each child's mother, were asked to complete
standardised questionnaires on the child's behaviour, parenting stress, mental health and
depression, attachment style, marital satisfaction, and perceptions of parenting by their own
Statistical analyses of the data revealed that the behaviour and psychopathology of the
children of the fathers in the clinic group was more severe and that those fathers were more
likely to report depressive symptoms, parenting stress, and insecure attachment styles than
were the fathers in the non-clinic group. A profile of poor childhood care from their own
fathers was linked with higher levels of depressive symptoms and insecure attachment in both
groups of fathers. In the clinic group a key factor regarding high levels of attendance for their
child's appointment was the father's reported quality of relationship with his own father.
The results are discussed with regard to implications for clinical work with fathers whose
children are attending Family and Child Psychiatry clinics. It is suggested that clinicians
become cognisant of the relevance of fathers' attachment styles and history of relationships
with their own parents, especially their fathers, in order to facilitate the father's engagement
in family sessions.