Newswise — Dr Esmée Hanna, Research Assistant in the Centre for Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett, will discuss her current research into the value of group-based support for young fathers; and Steven Markham, a Researcher for the Centre for Men’s Health, will present his study on a support group for men who experience anger and/or violent behaviour.

The British Sociological Association annual conference is taking place from Wednesday 6 to Friday 8 April at Aston University in Birmingham, with Esmée and Steven’s presentations taking place on Thursday 7 April.

Esmée’s research has explored the use and value of group-based support for young fathers. She explained: “Young men who are fathers often have a strong desire to be ‘good dads’ but can find accessing appropriate support for their parenting endeavours challenging, with parent and child activities often being marketed for mother and child. Young men may also not have peers who have children, so may also lack this aspect of support within their lives as young parents.”

Esmée has explored two very different group-based support projects for young dads, holding in-depth interviews with those who run and organise the groups and the young men attending them. One group offers intensive individual support from a young dads support worker as well as group-based activities for dads and their children; whilst the other group offers a practical bike building project for young men to work on together.

At the conference, Esmée will highlight the perspectives of the young fathers involved in her research, showing what works in such projects – for example, including activities and opportunities to socialise - and the impacts that they can have on the wellbeing and parenting approaches of young men.

Esmée added: “My research shows that group support for young fathers is a valuable way to bring young men together and foster peer support; and tailoring support to young men who are fathers can have wider social benefits in terms of their, and their children’s, lives.”

The group organisers reported viewing the young men attending their programmes as living chaotic lives, often disadvantaged in terms of material goods and income and often having experience of the criminal justice system. The organisers saw their projects as being a positive way of engaging young dads through bringing them together and out of isolation. They noted a visible improvement in the dads’ wellbeing and self-esteem.

The young dads themselves were very aware that there is less support available for them in terms of support groups than for women and felt that increasing the number of such groups for young dads would be beneficial to society as a whole.

Steven’s current research is centred around men who experience feelings of anger and/or that behave in violent ways. He explained: “These men are limited in where they can go for support. I am in the process of investigating and evaluating an example of a group-based peer support programme designed to reduce angry emotions and incidence of violent behaviour. Men can refer themselves to this programme, or receive a court order to attend.”

Steven’s research involves semi-structured interviews with staff involved in running the 12-week programme and its participants, with the aim of finding out the benefits of the programme and how it may be improved and re-created elsewhere in the country.

Steven added: “The programme focuses on acceptance of the participants, offering them a safe place to explore their experiences, whilst not condoning past or future incidence of aggressive or violent behaviour. Psychosocial education sessions are delivered to help the participants to understand their past experiences, the roles that they undertake in society, and how they can choose to reduce the experience of angry emotions and respond to anger in socially appropriate ways. I hope that my research will have implications to future practice and effectiveness in programmes aiming to reduce emotional distress and violence.”

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British Sociological Association annual conference