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UCR Professor is a Fan of Father's Day

UCR Professor is a Fan of Father's Day

(June 8, 1999)

The philosophy of Ross Parke, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, is that the fate of the nation hangs on the fate of individual families.

With a new book, called THROWAWAY DADS, and a recent appointment as president-elect of the prestigious Society for Research in Child Development, Parke has positioned himself to spread the word that families -- and society -- can take steps to heal some of the deep injuries of modern life.

"Are fathers really important? Of course they are," said Parke. "Yet we as a society have wittingly and unwittingly built nearly insurmountable barriers that restrict men's involvement with their children and families."

THROWAWAY DADS: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be, was co-authored by Armin Brott, an author from Northern California, and published by Houghton Mifflin. The book explodes the myths of neglectful, uninterested, abusive, deadbeat and lazy dads with real-life studies and statistics.

The book includes chapters about the exaggerations and incorrect assumptions behind widely-accepted research findings that women alone carry the burden of a "second shift" of housework and childcare, or the inflated statistics that led to the concept of a "deadbeat dad." When put into context, it becomes clear that fathers are suffering from an undeservedly negative reputation in U.S. society.

Parke and Brott propose steps that men, women, employers, the medical community, the media, and the government can take to promote men's involvement in their children's lives.

Wives can adjust their standards and stop acting as a "gate-keeper" between their partners and the children. Schools can de-emphasize gender stereotypes and give boys opportunities for care-giving activities. The welfare system can change policies that deny benefits to single women who marry again, or who retain a close relationship with the children's father. The judicial system can encourage joint custody arrangements, or give sole custody to fathers if they happen to be the better parent.

"It's getting better, but it is not changing fast enough," Parke said. At the same time, Parke and Brott point out, men must do what they can to remain involved with their children, even in the event of divorce, and to share responsibility with their wives for housework and other day-to-day family responsibilities.

Parke has just embarked on a six-year period of leadership in a professional association that shapes opinions about family relationships. In May he became president-elect of the Society for Research in Child Development, which was founded in 1933 as a not-for-profit professional association for researchers and human development professionals.

Parke's term as president runs from 2001-2003. He will be past president from 2003-2005. The journal "Child Development" is one of three publications produced by the 5,000-member group.

Parke said he hopes to use his influence to polish the image of fathers and to counter stereotypes that persist in newspapers, books, television and film.

"On this last Father's Day before the year 2000, I hope I see stories in the media that celebrate the most laudable qualities of fatherhood, qualities such as playfulness, involvement and sensitivity to the needs of their partners and children," Parke said. "That would make it a happy Father's Day for me."

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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