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Break the Barriers

The Office of the Commissioner for Children has released its first results on its research on men’s and women’s attitudes on fathering (see Father & Child, Dec 97), concluding that obstacles to involved fathering need to be removed.

The report summarises results from the fourteen focus groups of men and women held late last year in the three main centres.

It notes that at least among the participants of the groups “there had been a change in the perception of the role of the father”.

The traditional idea that men should be sole breadwinners and women the primary caregivers was far outnumbered by the view “that fathers should be able to participate in all aspects of parenting”.

The most commonly named obstacles to fathering were stereotypes as communicated through attitudes and conditioning and reinforced by the media and, in the case of divorced fathers, problems with the Family Courts.

Participants in the focus groups also complained about unhelpful employment conditions and lack of understanding by employers.

“These preliminary results reflect exactly the concerns of the people who formed the Father & Child Trust”, says Harald Breiding-Buss, community development worker with the Trust. “It is great confirmation of the issues that our Trust is currently addressing.”

The results are not representative, however, and a nationwide poll is planned later in the year by the Office of the Commissioner for Children to get a clear picture of New Zealanders’ attitudes to the father’s and mother’s role.

In addition, after the focus groups were held, some of the participants in groups in Wellington and Christchurch had been critical of focus group facilitator Rae Julian’s role.

They felt she was leading the discussion in a particular direction, possibly suppressing some points of view.

Next: A Successful Three Months For Father&Child Trust

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