Fathers and other male caregivers who completed a child maltreatment prevention program tailored for men improved their parenting knowledge and noted positive behavior change with their children, according to a recent study led by researchers at the Georgia State University School of Public Health.
“I feel like it helped me develop as a father,” one of the fathers who participated in the program called Dad2K told the researchers. “And it helps me talk to my kids more and do more activities and stuff with them, and learn how to discipline them without just whipping and yelling at them.”
Even though nearly 45 percent of all child maltreatment cases in the U.S. were perpetrated by male caregivers, few intervention programs are targeted to them, the researchers noted.
The study used a version of the home-based parent training program SafeCare® that was adapted for use specifically with male caregivers. The men in this study included biological fathers, foster or adoptive fathers, step-fathers, male guardians or other father figures.
“A significant focus of public health efforts targeting child maltreatment prevention has been education and training parents,” the researchers said. “These ‘parenting’ programs, however, are often maternal-child focused, with fathers being overlooked or neglected as target participants of clinical delivery and research.”.
The study included 99 adult male caregivers of children between 2 and 5 years old. The men also met at least two of the following risk factors: low educational attainment, low household income, unmarried, and young age at time of first child’s birth. Fifty-one of the male caregivers were assigned to participate in the Dad2K program, while the other 48 received parenting materials in the mail about topics such as safe sleep practices, communication techniques and parenting tips.
The results of the study are published in Child Abuse & Neglect in the article “The impact of SafeCare® Dads to Kids program on father maltreatment risk and involvement: Outcomes and lesson learned from an efficacy trial.” The study’s lead author is Dr. Shannon Self-Brown, professor of health promotion and behavior at Georgia State University.
While the study didn’t find significant differences in parental involvement between the participants of the Dad2K program and those receiving mailed parenting material, it did find that the men who completed the Dad2K program offered specific examples of how the intervention enhanced their parenting knowledge and skills.
The study’s authors also include Ms. Melissa C. Osborne, Ms. Natasha DeVeausse Brown, and Dr. Clinton Boyd Jr., students at Georgia State; Dr. Whitney Rostad, a behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former Georgia State postdoctoral researcher; Alexandria Patterson, project coordinator at Georgia State’s Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development; Mr. Evander Baker, an environmental health specialist for the Madison County (Ga.) Health Department and former Georgia State research coordinator; Ms. Akilah Thomas and Ms. Elizabeth M. McAdam, senior SafeCare® training specialists; Dr. Matt Jackson, a CDC ORISE fellow and former Georgia State research fellow; Ms. Theresa Glasheen, project coordinator at Georgia State’s National SafeCare® Training and Research Center; and Dr. Betty Lai with Boston College.