Good fathers are good for everyone

by Dr John Barry

As you might expect, the Male Psychology Network is interested in the role of the father in the family. Given that our blog spot was recently ranked 3rd for psychology in the UK, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the blogs from the past year and see what they tell us about fathers and fatherhood.

The overall message is that fathers have an important role in the family. If they get it right, there are benefits for all concerned, but if something goes wrong, it can be damaging for all concerned.

An example of things going wrong with the fathering was seen in Jennie Cummings-Knight’s review of Grayson Perry’s book ‘The Descent of Man’: “an absentee father and a violent step father are some of the elements that interacted upon the young Perry and led him to taking refuge in his mother’s wardrobe (literally and figuratively)”

One is left wondering whether the various attacks that Perry launches on men and masculinity are a result of unsatisfactory male role models in his childhood. This is echoed in Dr Kevin Wright’s blog:In the absence of positive male role models, sons often drift aimlessly and may end up in gangs.  This not only is a problem for society, but allows a boy to waste his life to criminality, mental illness, substance abuse and even suicide”  Child psychotherapist Andrew Briggs observed that father absence is implicated in self-harm, ADHD, and predatory sexual behaviour

Being an absent father is sometimes a choice men make, but all too often it is imposed upon them. Sometimes the children in separated families are turned against the father in a heartbreaking way, as described in the review by Dr Becci Owens of the book by Stuart Hontree The degree to which the distress caused by family breakdown and lack of access to children can lead to suicide is not known due to lack of definite statistics, but is the subject of forthcoming research by the Male Psychology Network.

Inevitably of course some men will make a mess of the father role largely due to their own faults. The Male Psychology Network has no illusions about the possibility of men getting things wrong, as reflected in our support for developments in forensic psychology, including  preventing child sexual abuse We take a proactive approach to improving men’s mental health, which we believe will reduce criminality and related social problems.

The other side of the coin is that good fathers are good for everyone. This is suggested by the finding of the Harry’s Masculinity report (by Dr John Barry and Martin Seager) that the more a man aspires to be like his father, the better his mental health It seems to be especially important to the stable development of boys, says Belinda Brown, to grow up with a male role model demonstrating positive aspects of masculinity

Although some people are hostile to the traditional role of the father, alternatives roles for fathers haven’t been overwhelmingly popular so far, as highlighted by Dr Rob Hadley

Some people will have had fathers who fell well short of ideal, but that doesn’t mean the role of the father (or masculinity, or men in general) is inherently wrong. No matter what your views are of the traditional role of the father, it’s a good idea to make Father’s Day a day when you make an extra effort to extend some human warmth to the man without whom you would not be here today.


About the author

Dr John Barry is a chartered psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network

Several of the authors mentioned in this blog (in bold) are presenting their work at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL on 22nd – 23rd June

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