The role of fathers for children's socio emotional development – University of Copenhagen

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Seminar on research about the role of fathers for children’s socio-emotional development

August 26th, 2016

The purpose of the seminar was to gain an overview of the state-of-the-art on research about fathers and their role in children’s socio-emotional development and to discuss the future of the field. It took place at the Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen.

About the seminar

Within the field of developmental psychology research regarding “parenting” has so far mainly been research about “mothering”. For years, the field has largely ignored the role of fathers in studies about the influence of parental behavior on children’s socio-emotional well-being. More recently, this gap in in knowledge has been noted and the call for more research in this area has increased. Almost every research paper studying mothers, currently ends with a statement in the discussion that fathers were not included, and more research is needed to better understand the influence of fathers on children’s development.

Alongside the increasing scientific interest in the role of fathers, recent societal developments further stress the need for more knowledge regarding the role of fathers: Across northern Europe, more and more fathers seem to want to spend more time with their young children and be more involved in their upbringing - a development which mothers usually applaud. In many northern European countries, current regulations concerning paternal leave from work in the first year of the child’s life are debated and extensions of the possibilities for fathers are discussed. Nevertheless, regulations across countries still vary widely, with the Scandinavian countries generally being most “gender-equal” in this regard. However, the consequences of different policies for children, mothers, fathers, and families are not well-known.

Therefore, the aims of this seminar was to:

  • Get an overview of father research that has been going on and is currently going on
  • Develop perspectives for future research that answers to societal changes and needs


Welcome and registration (8:00 – 8:30)

Please notice that the seminar starts precisely at 8:30 and the doors will be closed after that. So please be on time in respect for the speakers.

Morning session (8:30 – 13:00)

Four talks of international experts. Participation is open for all interested.


Marian J. Bakermans-KranenburgProf. Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg
Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg is professor at Center for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands. Her research focus is attachment and emotion regulation in parents and their children, with special emphasis on neurobiological processes in parenting and development.

Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg
Fathers in the picture: sensitivity and beyond

Father care comes in various quantities and various qualities. In most western countries fathers have increased their participation in parenting over the past decades, but maternal involvement remains substantially higher. Fathers spend on average less than half as much time in direct one-on-one interaction with their children as mothers, especially in early childhood. Although the quantity of time invested in parenting is generally considered less important than quality (“quality time”), it is easy to see that it takes considerable time to get to know an infant, become aware of its preferences, and read its signals. Therefore, two issues are relevant: the processing of infant signals (including the underlying neurobiological mechanisms), and the development of fathering over time. I will highlight research findings and ongoing research on these two issues, and pay attention to a largely neglected aspect in studies of human parenting: protective parenting.

Phlip HwangProf. Philip Hwang
Philip Hwang is professor of psychology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. His research focuses on child development, fatherhood and the linkages between gender, family and work in post-industrialized societies.

For more information see:


Prof. Renske Keizer
Renske KeizerFamily sociologist Renske Keizer is associate professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and professor by special appointment at University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are parenthood, gender inequality, and dynamics in partner relationships.

For more information see: 

Renske Keizer
The role of the father in child development and the intergenerational transmission of social inequality

Over the last decades, an increasing number of mothers have remained in the work force after childbirth, attitudes towards the fatherhood role have changed, and public concerns over rising numbers of fathers living apart from their children have grown. In consequence, the role of fathers in family life is drawing more and more scholarly attention. Despite this heightened attention, the current understanding of paternal involvement is still limited. Existing studies are often snapshots in terms of theoretical focus, methodological design and time span. Most studies on the role of fathers on children’s development have focused on what fathers do. Less attention has been devoted to the circumstances under which father’s influence on their children’s development is strongest or weakest.

The central idea of my talk is that much can be learned about the influence fathers have on their children’s development and, more specifically, on the role fathers play in the intergenerational transmission of social inequality, by linking ‘old’ sociological stratification questions to a new line of developmental psychology research on father involvement. In general, I will emphasize the need to have eye for the importance of context; context that may influence not only the behavior of fathers themselves, but also the impact this behavior has on children’s development. In this talk, I will explicitly focus on three different contexts: the household, the extended family, and the country.

Paul RamchandaniProf. Paul Ramchandani
Paul Ramchandani is Reader in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Department of Medicine, Imperial College London. His research is focused on the prevention of mental health problems in infancy and childhood. 

For more information see:

Paul Ramchandani
Fathers and children’s mental health

There is an increasing recognition of the important role that fathers play in many children’s lives. However, when there are challenges, such as when fathers are absent, or severely unwell, then children can sometimes be adversely affected. I will describe research on fathers mental health and it’s links with children’s emotional and behavioural development, but also speak about the potential benefits of including fathers in interventions to support children with mental health problems.

Lunch break (13:00 – 14:00)

Poster session. Invited participants and presenters only. Abstract submission is open for all participants.

Afternoon session (14:00 – 16:00)

Panel discussion. Invited participants and poster presenters only.

Closing (16:00 – 17:00)

Drinks and snacks are provided. Participants of the afternoon program only.


Associate professor Mette Skovgaard Væver
Department of Psychology
Telefon: 35 32 49 06