Thursday, December 07, 2006

Everything You Wanted to Know About Dads

It seems like it was just last week that I was lamenting that no one ever seems to take a look at family dynamics through the prism of dads, practically begging for a comprehensive report to fall from the sky. And yesterday -- voila! -- a comprehensive report on dads did indeed fall from the sky (more accurately, it was introduced at a DC press conference. But close enough).

The National Fatherhood Initiative's effort, the Fathering Attitudes Survey (PDF), is a great piece of work. It's built on what seems like a strong 701-father survey and analyzed with some statistical rigor. NFI is focused pretty tightly on thinking about ways for men to be "involved, responsible, and committed fathers," and it's a goal worthy of a lot of support.

I don't have the space to go through all the of the results, or even all of the important results, but I encourage you to take a look at the 30-page report. It is probably worth calling attention to a few of my longstanding -- though often thinly supported -- beliefs that are backed up by the NFI survey:
1. The media isn't doing dads any favors. The report ranks "media/popular culture" as the no. 2 obstacle to good fathering, behind "work responsibilities" but ahead of "financial problems" or "lack of knowledge." Of survey respondents, 65 percent agreed that "The media (e.g. commercials and TV shows) tend to portray fathers in a negative light."

2. It also confirms the importance of guys connecting with each other. The survey found 73.9 percent of dads drew on "other fathers or men" for help in being a dad. That was no. 2 (after "wife, partner or child's mother" but ahead of "their mother" and "their father.") And 77 percent agreed that "as a father, you feel a responsibility to help other fathers improve their fathering skills."

3. This generation of fathers is increasingly confident in the daddy role. A huge number -- 99 percent -- agreed that "being a father is a very important part of who you are," and 78 percent say they have the skills to be a good father.

4. We need to continue to think on ways to prepare guys for fatherhood: 54 percent of dads felt adequately prepared for the gig when they first became fathers.
These snippets don't do the report justice ... it has some nice demographic breakdowns and gives a novel picture of fatherhood.

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