Parenting: The role of fathers and maternal mental health

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Parenting is often defined by the environments in which families live. This means that parents are both influenced and affected by their environment in which they raise their children. Positive relationships and communication between the parent and the child proves to be beneficial in fostering adaptive parenting. Parents who are able to maintain positive reciprocal relationships and have the added benefit of sharing parenting with someone else can contribute to enhanced caregiving.  The dynamics of the father- child relationship is significant in a child’s overall development. Fathers are often involved in the parenting role in three ways i.e. interactive, availability and responsibility. An interactive role involves father’s participating in child- care routines, availability refers to the level of accessibility to the child and responsibility refers to the degree to which the father ensures that the primary needs of the child is met. The presence of a male figure in the home is linked to more secure attachment and is a key component in families in which children display a more secure sense of self.  In terms of parent psychopathology, maternal depression is considered a risk factor that affects the caregiver- child relationship. It also contributes to less adequate parenting behaviour which may lead to issues regarding the adjustment of infants and young children. Maternal depression has been associated with unresponsiveness, inattentiveness, intrusiveness and negative perceptions of the child. The topic surrounding emotional availability is a sensitive one as it includes the idea of questioning “good enough mothering”. It is however, important to note that “good enough” parenting is one that is not perfect but provides a nurturing and caring environment for the child both physically and emotionally which ultimately supports optimal child development.

J. P. Shonkoff, & S.J. Meisels (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood intervention (2nd ed., pp. 3-34). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.