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New Fathers’ Guide

Study and new book by Jerrold Shapiro finds expectant fathers’ fears need attention

A new study out of Santa Clara University finds the latest generation of new fathers are more engaged with their children, but have the same fears as new dads from decades ago. Santa Clara University Counseling Psychology Professor and clinical psychologist Jerrold Shapiro just re-conducted his famous study on expectant fathers from 1982–86 with new fathers of today and found many ways new dads could address their concerns.

The study found across generations, expectant dads have fears about their partner’s health, losing out to the babies in the competition for a partner’s attention, and not being able to provide for the family, financially and otherwise. However, parents are having children later in life. Modern couples are conceiving closer to 30 years old as opposed to new parents decades ago conceiving in their early 20s.

“Despite the fact that new parents of today have had more time to establish their careers and set themselves up financially, the same fears occur regardless of age,” says Shapiro. “With all of the advancements in medicine and endless amount of information at our fingertips, the idea of being responsible for another living thing still makes new dads question their abilities. Unfortunately, we’re still not doing enough to address their concerns.”

Shapiro interviewed 99 new dads nationwide representing a cross-cultural sample that mirrors the 2010 U.S. Census. He outlines his findings in his new book “When She's Pregnant: An Essential Guide for Expectant Fathers” (2014, XLibris).

“More than half of new dads are so overwhelmed they had fleeting doubts whether the baby was even theirs,” says Shapiro. “I saw a dad holding his infant son who shares the exact same shade of hair, skin color, and shape of nose, who still was uncertain with the idea that he could have been part of creating new life.”

Shapiro suggests many ways new dads can ease their anxiety including letting their pregnant partners know about their fears, talking to other dads for advice and shared experience, attending couple-oriented childbirth classes, connecting to the baby still in utero by singing and talking, and avoiding books and movies that trivialize fathers’ concerns.

“Probably the most important thing for new dads to do is to remind themselves that the love you will discover for your new infant will quiet most concerns,” says Shapiro.

Among the findings:
● 80 percent of first-time fathers described being concerned about queasiness, nausea, or fainting during the birth. This number dropped to under 20 percet of second-time fathers.
● Two-thirds of expectant fathers were uncomfortable with OB/GYN exams, procedures,
and tests.
● Nearly all had concerns over finances, security, and being the family provider and
protector. (Some fathers even reported buying a gun.)
● Over 50 percent had a fleeting thought about paternity. Most of these men also believed that their wives/partners had been faithful—this was more a reflection of the magnitude of helping to create life.

Shapiro will be signing copies of the his new book in the Loyola Hall North Lobby, June 10 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Counseling Psychology Professor Shauna Shapiro will also be signing her new book “Mindful Discipline: A Loving Approach to Setting Limits and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.” Please join them for light refreshments. Both books will be available for purchase.

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