"His mind will work better with both of us": a qualitative study on fathers' roles and coparenting of young children in rural Pakistan

BMC Public Health. 2018 Nov 20;18(1):1274. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6143-9.


Background: Parents are the primary providers of nurturing care for young children's healthy early development. However, the literature on parenting in early childhood, especially in low- and middle-income countries, has primarily focused on mothers. In this study, we investigate how parents make meaning of fathers' parenting roles with regards to their young children's early health and development in rural Pakistan.

Methods: Data were collected between January and March 2017 through in-depth interviews with fathers (N = 33) and their partners (N = 32); as well as separate focus group discussions with fathers (N = 7) and mothers (N = 7). Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis.

Results: Parents described a distinct division of roles between fathers and mothers; and also several shared caregiving roles of fathers and mothers. Specifically, parents highlighted aspects of fathers' coparenting and several common ways by which fathers supported their partners. We found that these gendered divisions in parenting roles were strongly embedded within a complex network of interacting factors across the individual, family, and sociocultural contexts of the study community.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a more family-centered conceptualization of fatherhood during early childhood that encompasses both fathers' direct engagement with their young children and their indirect contributions through coparenting, while recognizing a variety of contextual systems that shape paternal parenting. Future parenting interventions that reflect the lived experiences of both fathers and mothers as parents and partners may further enhance the nurturing care environments that are critical for promoting healthy early child development.

Keywords: Early child development; Fathers; Pakistan; Parenting; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Pakistan
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Role*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult