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Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Contemporary Dads and Divorce - Nov 11, 2006

Contemporary Dads and Divorce

November 11, 2006

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, CBS 11 News

Recent news reports of the pending divorces of celebrities such as Britney Spears and Reese Witherspoon raise the question about the role of fathers following divorce. Here to tell us more is CBS Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: When we talk about child custody following divorce, we usually think of mothers having primary custody with fathers retaining visitation rights. What are we seeing with today's fathers?

Dr. Sylvia: We are seeing a new generation of fathers in this country who very much want to be a part of their children's lives even after divorce. Research shows that many American men still experience a lot of pain about their own fathers. A Newsweek poll reported that 55% of men felt that, compared to their own fathers, parenting was much more important to them. Seventy percent of them were already spending more time with their kids and 86% of the wives surveyed said their partners were doing a very good job in the parenting department.

Q: Why has there been such a dramatic shift in men toward fathering?

Dr. Sylvia: We only began studying fathering around 10 years ago when we began to see a societal shift with dual-career families and with dads staying at home while mothers climbed the corporate ladders. Dads simply began to count more. We now have over 2.5 million fathers who exclusively parent and run their homes while their wives work. With the serious careers women are now earning, this statistic is only going to increase.

Q: Are stay at home dads similar to dads who work outside the home?

Dr. Sylvia: We find significant differences in their parenting.

Play to Teach Moral Lessons: These fathers, when compared to traditional dads, used play as a way to teach valuable moral lessons, ideas about respect and strategies for handling strong emotions.

Real World Consequences: These fathers emphasize the 'here and now' consequences of the child's behavior and the effect on other people. Real world consequences are emphasized. Studies find that a mother may urge her child to consider the negative effects on her feelings as she tries to motivate the child to improve.

Increased Self-Confidence in Boys: Because dad is such a strong presence in his life, a son is more likely to grow up self-confident and less tied to traditional gender roles. Their self-assurance makes these boys more masculine and accepting with girls.

Q: But are men as empathic as women?

Dr. Sylvia: We sell our men short in this area. Men feel deeply. However, they don't necessary express their deep and powerful emotions. Research indicates that empathy--that ability to identify compassionately with another person--comes naturally to most dads. The fathers are not as overt in their expression of empathy as the mothers. In studies that measured how moms and dads reacted to their babies' crying, both genders were similar in response when their biological (rather than behavioral) markers of empathic response were measured. Factors such as heart rate and rhythm, changes in blood pressure, skin responsiveness were the same for both genders.

Q: So if fathers are feeling compassion and empathy, why wouldn't they show it?

Dr. Sylvia: Society urges men to stand strong and unflinchingly handle emotions. They are to hunt and provide, not emote. However, new research suggests that contemporary fathers insist on developing a close relationship with both their daughters and sons. They are no longer willing to behave passively as a parent and want to guide and cultivate their children.

Q: What are some of the challenges men face following divorce?

Dr. Sylvia:

Divorced Moms as Gatekeepers: According to some research, 50% of divorced moms feel there is nothing to be gained by continued contact with the father. These mothers tend to behave as gatekeepers to their children, and this can become a huge obstacle to effective post-divorce fathering.

Career Costs: In one study, men with an MBA received 20% lower raises when they took off two hours a week to help with the children. Work for a company that rewards your emotional intelligence and devotion to other people.

Q: What is the bottom line for our fathers?

Dr. Sylvia: Staying involved with your children after divorce has multiple benefits. To express an intense interest in your children and to consistently be present in their lives can be a mastery experience, especially if your own father was distant or even absent. Children are never hurt by too much attention and affection. Hang in there and rear an amazing individual!

Note: This story was based, in part, on the amazing book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack, Ph.D.