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Researchers explore ups and downs of early parenthood thanks to new funding

23 October 2018

New Wellcome Trust funding means researchers from the University of Bristol can undertake a new study exploring fathers' early parenting experiences.

Thanks to a new £280,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust, Dr Iryna Culpin from University of Bristol is leading research taking a unique look at the role of fathers and their parenting when their partner has experienced mental health difficulties.

Iryna Culpin is Wellcome Trust Research Fellow based at the Centre for Academic Mental Health, University of Bristol. She was previosuly awarded an Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Early Career Fellowship, which was instrumental in enabling her to successfully apply for this new funding.

Dr Iryna Culpin said:

“Our three-year study will help influence a much-neglected area of mental health research – how dads contribute to the wellbeing of family life and their role in parenting when mothers experience mental health difficulties. We know that mothers’ mental health is important for child development, and this new study will help us find out more about the role of fathers and their experiences of parenting in such families."

Although many of the 200 dads sought will come from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study, researchers want to recruit more fathers of six to 12-month-old babies from the Bristol area whose partner may or may not have experienced mental health difficulties during or after the pregnancy.

Iryna continued:

“In Bristol we have a wealth of health data from volunteers in the Children of the 90s study and we may find that dads who come forward will become valuable assets for future health research."

The Perinatal Mental Health (IMPROVE) Health Integration Team (HIT) was instrumental in formulating research question and design of the study. This was achieved through facilitating close engagement and strong partnership with community services and charities that support families through perinatal depression, and, most importantly, mothers and fathers who articulated a strong need for help and support during this challenging time.

IMPROVE HIT has also facilitated engagement with perinatal health and early years services provision to provide insights into existing service delivery and scope for future intervention. The HIT is also a tried-and-tested mechanism for rapid dissemination of research findings and the study will continue collaborating with IMPROVE to engage with policymakers and perinatal health practitioners through workshops and collaborative interdisciplinary meetings.

Recruited dads will be asked to take part in a range of activities, including keeping a diary to capture everyday activities with their child, use wearable technology to capture interactions during meal or play time, fill in a questionnaire and take part in interviews about their experiences of being a parent.

Matthew Moriarty, aged 26, has been taking part in the Children of the 90s study since birth and is has just welcomed his second child. He commented:

“I’ve been taking part in health research since I was born and think it can be really helpful. There’s a lot of advice out there for new mums but it would be beneficial for dads, especially if they are separated from their partner. For anyone thinking about becoming a research subject I would say just go for it – you have nothing to lose and will be helping future generations of new dads.”

Principal Investigator for the Children of the 90s study Dr Nic Timpson added:

“We have been interested in engaging with fathers throughout the running of the Children of the 90s and helping to understand things important for their health. This research represents a critically important area of focus for us and for the community as there is very little known about new fathers and their role, experience and the impact of this on health. This work addresses this brilliantly and we are delighted that it has received funding and that we can support it.”

Read Iryna Culpin's EBI Fellowship project case study: Postnatal depression and fatherhood – what is the fathers’ role?

Researchers explore ups and downs of early parenthood thanks to new funding
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