Richard Fletcher

Associate Professor Richard Fletcher

Research Interests

  • We know that a father’s relationship with his infant can have a big effect on how that child develops and we know that fathers can struggle with the demands of a new family.
  • We also know that fathers focus on work and finances and tend to see mothers as the one in charge of baby-things. 
  • Most parenting programs and all of the maternity units are directed at mothers and fathers rarely attend or may not be welcome.
  • My research is focused on how we communicate with far with men as they become fathers: how can we provide information and support to men who are time-poor and who are figuring out their role on the fly.
  • We have developed a digital platform to text dads from early in the pregnancy until their baby is a year old.  At the same time we are working with health workers and family support systems to help them include fathers alongside mothers without doubling their workload.

Why did you get into research?

We were funded by philanthropic foundation to help health and education services include fathers. For two years we worked in suburbs with high rates of disadvantage in the poorest areas of Newcastle helping health and education services to include fathers for the benefit of the whole family. As we developed those programmes the lack of research on fathers and the lack of evidence to support programs for fathers stood out.  

What woudl be your ultimate goal for research?

Fathers need information, support and care .
Fathers are not well informed about their role in infant development or about the ways that they might provide support to their partner to maximise the effectiveness of their teamwork in raising children. They are not well informed about health and welfare services which may provide assistance .
Fathers need the support of other men in similar positions. Avenues are needed to communicate with and relate to other men making the transition too fatherhood. They need opportunities to share their perspective on this important aspect of their lives.  
For fathers who are struggling to manage the transition to being an affectionate, competent and confident parent services are required to be accessible, appropriate and able to provide assistance.  

Profile/Biography

Dr Richard Fletcher BSc. Dip. Ed. ( Sydney), Grad. Dip. Infant Mental Health (NSW Institute Psychiatry), PhD (Newcastle) He has been conducting programs and research with boys, fathers and families for over 20 years and is the convenor of the Australian Fatherhood Research Network.

As an apprentice plumber Richard attended night school to gain entry to Sydney University to study science and he taught science in in NSW and Kenya schools. Returning to work in health promotion he pioneered the development of Men's Health and Boys’ Health areas of study. His PhD research into father-infant attachment has led him to investigate fathers' role in families across topics such as ‘rough and tumble play’ paternal depression and coparenting. As Associate Professor in the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle his postgraduate teaching includes working with fathers in vulnerable families and father-infant attachment. Richard’s book “The Dad Factor: How the Father-Baby Bond Helps a Child for Life”  has been translated into 5 languages. He is editor of the Fatherhood Research Bulletin.

Future Focus

When men learn that they are to become a father they would have developed a clear idea of their caring role, they would know where to get information and support and would see themselves as equal partners with the mother in the most important job of raising healthy and well-adjusted children. 

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Father's role in families with PND
  • Young parents
  • Father-infant attachment
  • Aboriginal fathering
  • Fathers of children with autism
  • Using the internet for parent support
  • Supporting seperated parents of young children

Affiliations

  • Fathers and Families Research Program, Family Action Centre
  • Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health