Families and fatherhood have changed over the last several years, and fathers have begun joining support groups to better assume their new role. How do these activities change their conception of masculinity and fatherhood?
When questioned about their motives, single fathers explained that they were looking for respite, socialization and support.
In 2017, Dominic Bizot, a researcher and director in the Social Work Teaching Unit at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with eleven fathers over the age of 30 from eight support groups in different cities across Québec.
When questioned about their motives, single fathers explained that they were looking for respite, socialization and support because of a breakup, a conflictual situation or legal procedures against their ex-spouse. Fathers living with a partner were seeking information, discussion and the chance to share experiences. All wanted concrete answers in terms of resource referrals, the management of emotions and advice about the children's education.
The researcher noted that, at the outset, the men integrated passively into the group. They observed and listened, and only began opening up to the others when they observed certain benefits such as comfort, strength and well-being. Many of them created lasting ties with other members of the group.
In terms of observed effects, activities aimed at recognition, sharing and introspection led the men to see themselves more positively. They felt less pressure and guilt with regard to their role as a father. Their relationships with the mother of their children, with their children and with their own parents became more harmonious.
The study showed that it can be very difficult to organize support groups like these, due in part to a lack of funding. Dominic Bizot's work is contributing to the development of knowledge about the situation of fathers and about this type of activity. It will help convince governments of the relevance of support groups.