Aim: To investigate how nurses in Swedish child health care perceived working with fathers, and to what extent they offered support to, and included fathers in clinical encounters.
Methods: A random sample of all nurses in Swedish child health care, 499 nurses, were asked to complete a postal questionnaire. The response rate was 70%. Data were analysed with content analysis, the chi-square test and logistic regression models.
Results: Almost all of the nurses found working with fathers positive. Fathers’ participation in child health care was much lower than that of mothers’. Almost 90% of the nurses estimated that it rarely came to their attention that a father was distressed, and less than one of five nurses had offered supportive counselling to any distressed father in the previous year. Nurses with regular supervision on mental health issues and nurses with a paediatric specialization were more likely to offer supportive counselling to fathers. Approximately 50% of the nurses had an ambivalent attitude towards fathers’ caring capacity when compared to that of mothers.
Conclusions: Fathers received less support from child health nurses, and many nurses were ambivalent about fathers’ caring abilities. Methods need to be developed to involve both parents in child health care.