Kirsty at six months: Dad faces obstacles

Written by Dr Gary Clapton, senior lecturer in social work, University of Edinburgh on 2 December 2016 in Comment

In the Year of the Dad, Dr Gary Clapton says the Holyrood baby's father plays a vital role

Dr Gary Clapton - Illustration by Jenny Proudfoot

Writing about Kirsty in the most recent instalment of her life so far (4 June), Professor Mary Renfrew notes that: ‘In Scotland there can sometimes be a slightly macho thing, but actually, Scottish men are often very engaged with their children’. 

Indeed, Kirsty is one of only a minority of babies in Scotland not living with both parents. National records report that 84 per cent of births in 2015 were registered to parents at the same address.

The ‘Millennium Cohort’ study, tracking children born throughout the UK in 2000, reveals interesting information about supposedly ‘macho’ Scottish fathers: who more than in any other UK country read to their children and get them ready for bed; play outdoors and indoors with their children; and look after their children on their own.


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However, for Kirsty’s father, being this kind of dad is likely to be more difficult. If or when she comes to stay with him, he’s not likely to have a separate room for her; health and care personnel will refer to him as ‘the father’ but Kirsty’s mother as ‘mum’. 

Teachers, health visitors and others will look over his shoulder for the mum, if he is the only parent presenting for appointments. When Kirsty’s mum puts her name down for nursery, the registration form will usually have no space for him and his separate address. Kirsty’s dad is going to have to overcome these and other obstacles to be an involved father for her. 

Little things such as getting a call from nursery or school when Kirsty needs a parent may not be asked of him if he’s invisible to services. Kirsty’s mum will suffer from this ‘father blindness’ too as all the demands will be placed on her.

Fathers Network Scotland’s current Year of the Dad campaign has worked hard to reach politicians, policymakers and professionals to point out the kind of obstacles that Kirsty’s father and others like him can face because the research tells us that a father involved in care, in play, reading, bedtimes, in the very early stages of Kirsty’s life is associated with later advantages such as school ‘readiness’ and higher sociability.  

If Kirsty’s dad is encouraged to be fully involved, Kirsty’s mum is freed to do the fun things as well as the chores. A win-win for everyone. 

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