Rabbi Dr Saul Haimoff
Father Involvement in Parenting (Yitro 5780)
Should dad come to parenting sessions? Most therapists assume yes - two heads are better than one, right? But what if the scheduling is just too complicated. Or the parents have a hard time finding babysitting. How much does it really help to have dad attend? At what cost would it be not worth it?
These were the questions I set out to answer in my research study. I specialize in treating children with behavioral issues, and parent training classes are an integral part of treatment. Couples usually ask if both of them have to attend. It is a big commitment for parents to attend the weekly sessions, so if they are already invested then shouldn’t they get the most out of it?
I conducted a study of 50 families who completed a 10-week behavioral parent training course. In 26 of the families, only the mothers attended the classes. In the other 24 families, both the mothers and fathers attended (at least some) of the classes.
I expected that the families with fathers that participated in treatment would do better. I was surprised to find that it was not the case. Children from both groups improved equally well. This was based on questionnaires that the parents filled out after the course, and again six months later.
So it turns out that father support of treatment is more important than attendance. It is enough for one parent to come to therapy, as long as the other parent is supportive and willing to implement the new strategies at home. It also is important for therapists to know that if encouraging both parents to participate will put extra strain on the relationship, the research shows that it even if only one of them attends, they would likely get the same benefits of the treatment.
Disclaimer: This is an overly simplified recap of my dissertation, which was written over a two year period and is 100+ pages long. I’m choosing to post this information on social media because I believe strongly in the importance of making research findings more accessible to the general public.