Fathers and Families

Research and Projects

SMS4Dads Project

SMS4dads is a two year feasibility study to develop and test a program sending text (SMS) messages to new fathers each week over the period before and after the birth. SMS4dads will also check in with dads at regular intervals to ask about their mood and fathering confidence. Those dads indicating distress or low confidence at any time will be linked to relevant information and support. This study is funded by beyondblue and Movember.

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The SMS4Families research will build on the success of SMS4Dads and be the first study to incorporate SMS messaging for fathers and mothers into a primary health setting over a metropolitan region. The project will deliver SMS messages to new and expecting parents. With a total catchment population of more than one million the testing of recruitment, materials and impact will produce important information on delivering IT-based interventions for parents in a real world setting. Carrington Health Melbourne, are the lead agency providing funding to The University of Newcastle for various phases of this project including software development, messaging, monitoring, referral and data collection for research deliverables.

SMS4dads in cases of severe maternal mental illness (SMMI)

New mothers with severe mental illness need special care for themselves and their newborn. Partners of these mothers also need support. SMS4dadsSMMI will develop messages that are suitable for texting to mothers with severe mental illness and their partners. SMS4dads is partnering with Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH) to trial the messages in two rural areas of Queensland.

Stayin’On Track Project

Stayin' on Track, is a program designed to transition young Aboriginal men to fatherhood through a user-developed website, and will also test a smartphone app called Mood Tracker and Dad Tracker. Young Aboriginal fathers from Newcastle, Tamworth and Moree are co-investigators and have recorded their own stories on film to be used in the phone app.

Father-Inclusive Practice Guide

This report describes the recent evidence that explains how fathers may be relevant to the work of an agency such as Berry Street Inc. which provides family services to support parents to better care for and nurture their children.

Rough and Tumble Play

Physical play is an integral component of childhood. ‘Big body contact’ play in particular is considered significant for children’s physical and emotional-social development. Alternatively called roughhousing, horsing around, or play-fighting, rough and tumble is typical play between boys in the playground, but is also occurs between parents and their young children. Past, current and future projects in the Fathers and Families Research Program are aimed at understanding the nature of this play, its relevance to fathering, and how it contributes to children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development.

Text4Two – Strengthening parenting partnerships

The main aim and objective of this Project is to develop and evaluate a combined text and email-based information and support system that is focused on strengthening parenting partnerships. Text4Two will send no-cost (for consumers) text messages, and identical emails, containing practical co-parenting information and links, simultaneously to both parents from 6 weeks to 46 weeks following their child’s expected or actual date of delivery on the platform developed and tested through SMS4dads. This research is supported by beyondblue with funds donated through Movember Foundation.

Fathers and Family Violence

Family violence is a critical national health problem and fathers are a key group to include in finding solutions. Our approach to this complex task is based on our experience researching and working with fathers across the community, and in teaching the Master of Family Studies postgraduate course on how to effectively work with the whole family to increase family well-being and eliminate violence. Our focus is on early intervention in reducing and preventing family violence.

Small Steps DADS&DV

We have developed a workshop for professionals wishing to initiate conversations with families where violence may be occurring. See the workshop for professionals on our Workshops and Training page https://www.newcastle.edu.au/research-and-innovation/centre/fac/workshops-and-training

Early Childhood Centres Addressing Family Violence


Goodstart Early Learning is the nation’s largest provider of early learning and care providing services to around 69,600 children through 645 Long Day Care centres across Australia. In order to develop a strategy to address and prevent family violence Goodstart has commissioned a series of brief research papers. One of the papers (that we prepared) focused on including fathers in the strategy. The paper “An early intervention role for Goodstart to address Family Violence – including fathers” is now available.

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Research team

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.