Fathers sharing about early parental support in health-care - virtual discussions on an Internet forum


  • Martin Salzmann-Erikson RN MHN MSc PhD-Candidate,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Department of Acute Psychiatry, Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål, Oslo, Norway
    2. School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
    • School of Health and Society, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden
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  • Henrik Eriksson RNT PhD

    1. The Red Cross University College, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalens University, Eskilstuna, Sweden
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Martin Salzmann-Erikson

School of Health and Society

Dalarna University

S-791 88 Falun, Sweden

E-mail: mse@du.se


Becoming a father is a life changing event and this transition is associated with various emotions. Educational activities aimed at new parents are important in healthcare parental support (HCPS). HCPS has been critiqued for its predominant focus on mothers, while the needs of fathers seem to have been downplayed. As a result, fathers often turn to Internet-based forums for support. As virtual discussions and mutual support among fathers take place in cyberspace, it is important to monitor these forums to observe the ways in which the fathers discuss HCPS. The aim of this study is to explore the ways in which new fathers visiting an Internet-based forum for fathers communicated their experiences of HCPS. A netnographic method consisting of six steps was used to gather and analyse the data. The findings show that fathers shared with one another their experiences of the attitudes expressed by HCPS workers as well as their own attitudes towards HCPS. The attitudes of HCPS workers that were directed towards the fathers were perceived as highly personal and individual, while fathers described their attitudes towards the HCPS in general terms, towards HCPS as a system. Overall, the fathers described HCPS as a valuable confirmatory support that eased their worries concerning sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), colic, weight gain, fever and teething. Although the fathers expressed gratitude towards HCPS, they also shared their negative experiences, such as feeling invisible, disregarded and insulted. In fact, the twofold attitudes that exist in the relationship between the fathers and HCPS can act as a barrier rather than being a confirmatory support. We recommend that HCPS adopts a broader approach using more targeted and strategic didactic methods for supporting fathers in the growth of their own personal awareness, as such an approach would offer a competitive and professional alternative to the support offered in informal experience-based Internet forums.