Effecting change in maltreating fathers: Critical principles for intervention planning

Katreena L. Scott and Claire V. Crooks

Spring 2004, Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 95-111

This paper outlines the theoretical background for the Caring Dads program.

Abstract

Although fathers perpetrate a significant proportion of child maltreatment, the intervention needs of abusive and neglectful fathers have not been adequately addressed or researched. This paper argues that well-designed treatment has the potential to benefit men, their children, and their families. However, the treatment needs of maltreating and at-risk fathers are unique, and programs must be designed accordingly. Based on the integration of parenting, child abuse, change promotion and batterer treatment literatures, five principles to guide intervention with maltreating fathers are advanced: 1) Overly controlling behavior, a sense of entitlement and self-centered attitudes are primary problems of abusive fathers; thus, the development of child management skills should not be an initial focus of intervention; 2) Abusive fathers are seldom initially ready to make changes in their parenting; 3) Fathers' adherence to gender-role stereotypes also contributes to their maltreatment of children; 4) The relationship between abusive fathers and the mothers of their children requires special attention; and 5) Because abusive fathers have eroded children's emotional security, the need to rebuild trust will affect the pace of change and potential impact of relapse on the child. These principles are contrasted with the supportive and skills-based goals of conventional group parenting programs and the implications for providing service to fathers are considered.

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