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Fathers, social interventions and children’s well-being (ESRC mid career development fellowship 2011-14)

This is a programme of research to develop the investigator’s methodological skills. It is generally recognised that high quality quantitative research is lacking within UK social work. This was, for example, noted in the last two reports on the social work panel of the Research Assessment Exercise. Jonathan Scourfield has to date been mostly involved with critical, qualitative, sociological research. He is now seeking to broaden his methodological skills via advanced training in quantitative methods and to enhance his ability to conduct inter-disciplinary research relevant to social work through training in epidemiology and attachment to a public health research centre.

The research programme is important in its own right. For social care and other helping services to engage with fathers is a relatively recent innovation and not very much is yet known about the effectiveness of different approaches. The three studies will all contribute to the evidence base for more effective work with fathers and especially the impact of this work on the emotional well-being of children.

  • Study 1 involves analysis of existing data on families and child health over time. It will examine which social factors, attitudes and behaviours in fathers are associated with children’s emotional well-being. (Note that ‘fathers’ here means all father figures, including biological fathers, step fathers and mothers’ boyfriends).
  • Study 2 will try to identify which kinds of approaches and services are most commonly being used by practitioners who see themselves as working to engage fathers.
  • Study 3 is a pilot study of two groups or programmes for fathers. One is likely to be for men only and one a more general parenting programme including mothers as well but having a good level of attendance from fathers. The pilot study will explore the potential for future experimental research on outcomes for children of interventions with fathers, and in particular emotional health outcomes.

This field of interventions with fathers involves several different professional groups, so this is not purely a social work research project. There are particular connections with the field of public health. It is under a public health heading that many parenting programmes are delivered and evaluated. Because of this, over the course of the fellowship, connections will be made between social work and public health, in theory, policy, practice and research. The connections are very strong in the USA where, for example, there are many joint public health–social work Masters programmes. The fellowship will explore the potential for more explicit collaboration between these fields in the UK.

Link to project website

Links for Dr Jonathan Scourfield