The Difference Dads Make: Young Adult Men’s Experiences of their Fathers

Stefan Gruenert, Roslyn Galligan

Abstract


Few studies have examined the role that fathers play in the development and wellbeing of their sons. This paper examines the relationships, father memories and wellbeing of 194 young, heterosexual men who completed self-report questionnaires as part of a broader study of men’s relationships. Five groups of men with different patterns of relationships Secure, Anxious, Resilient, Foreclosed or Fearful were identified on the basis of a cluster analysis of their relationships with their mothers and fathers, their best male friend, their approach to romantic relationships with women, and their masculinity ideologies. Differences between the groups of men suggest that close relationships with fathers are associated with higher levels of wellbeing, with lower depression and social anxiety, with the ability to experience intimacy in non-verbal ways, and to have closer relationships with male friends. An analysis of men’s father memories indicated that positive and intimate fathering generally involved both verbal and non-verbal components, and included recreation and sport, emotional and practical availability and support, consistency and reliability, approval and guidance, and appropriate boundary setting.

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Keywords

fathers; men; relationships; child development; intimacy; wellbeing



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ISSN 1832-7931
Swinburne University of Technology