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Researchers at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital surveyed a national sample of more than 700 dads with children up to age 13. More than half – 52 percent – said they'd been criticized about their parenting. That percentage is only slightly less than the 61 percent of moms who reported being shamed for their parenting choices in a previous poll.
Discipline was the biggest target of criticism, with almost two-thirds of dads reporting that they'd been belittled for how they dealt with their child's behavior. Close to half said that they’d faced criticism for what they feed their child. And a third of dads said that they'd been chastised for not paying attention to – or for playing too rough with – their child.
Most often, the criticism of fathers came from family members:
- More than 40 percent received criticism from their child's other parent.
- 25 percent had been reprimanded by their child's grandparents.
Sadly, criticism from a partner was particularly damaging to dads' self-esteem, lead author Sarah Clark told ABC News. The dads who reported receiving regular criticism from a spouse were nine times likelier to want to be less involved fathers, she said.
Additionally, almost a third of dads said that criticism undermined their confidence as parents.
The good news is that many fathers took the criticism in stride, with about half making changes to their parenting as a result of the feedback, and 40 percent seeking to educate themselves further on the topic in question.
Clark said that some of the criticism dads get from their partner likely stems from a difference in parenting styles. It's important for partners to realize that just because a dad parents differently doesn't mean his parenting is wrong, she said.
In fact, dads tend to use different vocabulary than moms and are more likely than women to engage with their kids in rough-and-tumble play, developmental psychologist Geoffrey Brown told the New York Times. Both of these traits can be beneficial for children, he said.
Meanwhile, pediatrics professor David Hill said that part of the problem may be that society often expects fathers to be less competent at parenting than moms. To dads, that can feel insulting, he said.
Hill suggested that parents who are at odds over how to care for their child seek help from a third party, such as a counselor or pediatrician.
Looking for more parenting information for dads? Check out our Just for Dads resource page.
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