Australian-first online, father-friendly parenting program launches

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Australia’s first online-only, nationally available, evidence-based, father-friendly free parenting program ParentWorks launches today, with the aim of increasing participation of both parents to improve outcomes significantly for families and society.

The first fully online, Australia-wide free parenting program is launching with the aim of reaching one million fathers, through incorporating what dads want into a parenting program that includes evidence-based parenting strategies.

Former Olympic basketballer Andrew Gaze and broadcaster Tim “Rosso” Ross appear in videos from today as part of a national media campaign for ParentWorks.

The videos about the “Father Effect” – to be broadcast across television, radio and online – coincide with today’s launch of ParentWorks – an innovative approach to reaching more parents through the computer-only program incorporating father-friendly elements such as after-hours access and modules of interest to fathers, such as dealing with bullying and encouraging play.

“You sometimes look back and think, ‘well, you could’ve handled that a bit better’,” Andrew Gaze says in one of the videos.

Program lead chief investigator Professor Mark Dadds, who analysed a range of parents’ and children’s behaviours in the ABC TV series Kids on Speed, said: “The signals for mental health issues such as depression are often found in children at an early age and can be much better addressed in young children.

“Our online survey of 1,000 fathers found two in three children with behavioural problems were boys,” said Professor Dadds, the director of the University of Sydney’s Child Behaviour Research Clinic and a principal research fellow at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

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“By and large it’s the mothers who seek help, talking to female practitioners. We know parenting programs work significantly better when both parents are involved.”

ParentWorks, which went live August 22, is part of the national project Like Father Like Son headed by Professor Dadds, which is funded by the Movember Foundation to increase father participation in parenting programs.

Tailored to suit a digital world, ParentWorks incorporates videos, homework and includes features such as an interactive child behaviour tracker. There is a list of resources available if families need face-to-face assistance during or after the program, which is completed in as little as about 20 minutes weekly for four weeks.

The development of ParentWorks follows a trend in online programs, mostly for adult mental health and wellbeing.

Professor Dadds said ParentWorks was designed to help all Australian families.

Mums, dads and all caregivers in Australia can do the program individually or together, whether separated or living in the same household. People wanting to find out more or do the program can go to

Our online 2016 survey found:

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  • Of the children whose fathers rated them as having high levels of externalising behaviour problems, 67% were boys and 33% were girls.
  • Only one in six practitioners reported that fathers often attend their programs.
  • Reasons for fathers not participating in parenting programs included cost (20% listed this as a reason), work commitments (20%), no time to participate (15%), they did not know whether programs were effective (17%), or what the programs were about (16%), they did not know about parenting programs (16%), and/or they did not know where to go to participate (15%).

(Source: The University of Sydney)

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Date Created: August 29, 2016 Date Modified: September 3, 2016