Growing up in Scotland: father-child relationships and child socio-emotional wellbeing
This Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) study of father-child relationships aims to promote greater understanding of the role of fathers, and factors that strengthen father-child relationships. This should contribute to more effective representation for fathers in family policies and services, a declared aim of the Scottish Government’s national parenting strategy (Scottish Government, 2012). The study was commissioned by the Scottish Government in collaboration with Fathers Network Scotland as part of the Year of the Dad 2016.
The study considers several important issues for policy makers and practitioners involved with family influences on children’s socio-emotional wellbeing. It examines the distribution of poor, good or excellent father-child relationships; what predicts poor father-child relationships; and how positive father-child relationships are linked with other aspects of children’s socio-emotional wellbeing. Mother-child relationships are also considered, in order to view the totality of parental support for the child, and see where the child’s relationship with one or both parents may need strengthening.
The study draws on information from over 2,500 couple families in the first GUS birth cohort, a nationally representative sample. Most of these were families containing both biological parents although 10% were families containing the child’s mother and a male partner who was not the child’s father. In 2014/15, children in the study sample (average age 10, in Primary 6) were asked a series of questions about their trust in, and communication with, their resident father or father figure resident in the biological mother’s house. These questions measured the extent to which fathers were emotionally supportive of the child. Children’s responses were used to categorise father-child relationships according to whether fathers’ supportiveness was poor, good or excellent. Similar information was collected about mothers’ supportiveness.