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The role of fathers in child cohort studies. Harald Werneck University of Vienna, Austria Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies Inaugural Conference Developments and Challenges in Longitudinal Studies from Childhood

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The role of fathers in child cohort studies l.jpg

The role of fathers in child cohort studies

Harald Werneck

University of Vienna, Austria

Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies Inaugural Conference

Developments and Challenges in Longitudinal Studies from Childhood

22nd–24th of Sept. 2010, University of Cambridge, UK (Clare College)

EUCCONET-Symposium (Chair: Henri Leridon / Paris)


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

present situation: in most child cohort studies fathers are much less involved than mothers;

 idea to collect systematic reports from relevant cohort studies – with the following aims:

  • define specific problems connected with the role of fathers in child cohorts;

  • share and consider experiences and knowledge on how to handle these questions in praxis and discuss possible solutions;

  • create a scientific community working in the specific field of the role of fathers in child cohort studies;


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

Scientific workshop at the University of Vienna (Feb. 2010)

  • Family Development in the Course of Life (Austria) /Harald Werneck

  • Experiences from relevant cohort studies in Germany / Bernhard Kalicki

  • Generation R (Netherlands) / Nicole Lucassen

  • Growing Up In Scotland / Louise Marryat

  • ALSPAC (UK, Bristol) / Amanda Carmichael & Larissa Duffy

  • Millenium Cohort Study (UK, London) / Lisa Calderwood

  • Born in Bradford (UK) / ShaheenAkhtar, ShamrezIqbal & Pauline Raynor


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

discussion / results:

 three complexes of questions resp. considerations:

  • What are the reasons for the underrepresentation of fathers in child cohort studies?

  • Is it necessary / useful to include fathers (more intensively than before) and if yes, why?

  • Should/can we change the situation – recruit and keep more fathers (which fathers?) in the sample – and, if yes, how can this be managed in praxis (focus on biological or everyday-caring? how to deal with a couple’s break-up, new unions, non-resident fathers? etc.)?


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

1) Reasons for the situation:

  • funding-problems when including fathers (in addition to mothers), question of resources;

  • absence of the fathers in many cases (high rates of separation), recruiting problems;

  • low response rate of fathers;

    2) (Why) include more fathers?

  • differentiation: participation of fathers is more important at studies with a greater psychological and sociological focus;

  • possible bias in mother’s reports and limitations on what can be reported by proxy;


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

  • fathers’ and mothers’ perspectives, views, assessment etc. of their children often differ a lot; without fathers’ data you only get incomplete impressions;

  • different parenting experiences and behaviour of mothers and fathers; (e.g.: mothers often more protective and intrusive; fathers give more space to the child to express him-/herself etc.);

  • get an improved interpretation of determinants of child outcomes;

  • gauge fathers’ impact on child development more precisely;


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

  • to have data also of the fathers, e.g. about their attitudes and partnership, is important for understanding family dynamics and for effective prevention measures;

  • ‘right’ of the fathers to participate(?);

    3) What to do?

  • place greater emphasis on importance of participation of both parents;

  • move away from the traditional focus on the ‘household’ as unit of data collection and analysis;

  • need a broader definition of ‘fathers’ – including step, foster, adoptive fathers and ‘partners of mother’;


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The role of fathers in child cohort studies (Harald Werneck)

  • reports from both, the resident partner and the non-resident parent would be important in many cases (depends on research objectives);

  • recruit non-resident fathers as early as possible and, if possible, independently of mother;

  • track both parents independently of each other;

  • consider incentives, especially for non-resident fathers;

  • discussions very fruitful;

    no direct impact (since the prior objective was principally to exchange experience), but maybe impacts on the planning of further cohort studies;


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