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Media Release

June 28 2007

Parenting for fathers in a changing world

Father and childActive parenting for fathers in Australia often becomes a key part of their lives after divorce, not before. That’s the finding of visiting Swedish research fellow at the University of South Australia, Dr Roger Klinth.

“In Australia during the last few years, the debate on men’s right to child custody after divorce has been dominated by ‘fatherhood rights’ groups that seem to be more concerned with equality in their legal status than in their everyday parenting. These groups ignore the way in which custody decisions are shaped by division of labour before separation and divorce,” Dr Klinth said.

He believes that equal rights to parenting time with children after divorce must be related to equal responsibility before the divorce, otherwise the best interests of the children could be in danger.

“Men’s superior and privileged positions in the Australian workforce often spare them from the many difficulties related to balancing work and family obligations but this one-sided framing of fatherhood runs the risk of undercutting rather than supporting men’s involvement in childcare,” he said.

“These negative images need to be balanced by a positive vision of ‘new’ and committed fathers, whether in relationships, or separated or divorced.”

Dr Klinth believes Australia has much to learn from Sweden, where fatherhood has been placed in the framework of the new gender-equal family.

“Swedish men stand out as being more closely involved in the daily lives of their children and express more positive attitudes towards gender equality and caretaking responsibilities than men in other countries,” Dr Klinth said.

“Paid paternity leave, which was introduced in Sweden in 1974, has played an important role in contributing to the visibility of men’s involvement in the family. It has placed the focus on men as fathers, not only as husbands or breadwinners, and has contributed to bridging the historical gap between men’s and women’s traditional roles.”

Dr Klinth wants to see paid paternity leave introduced in Australia to allow fathers to play a more active role in their children’s development, whether or not they are in a family relationship or separated.

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