"When a Father feels Excluded": A qualitative Study Exploring the Role of Fathers in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program

Jun 2021 | Dan K. Dychtwald, Girija Kaimal, Linda M. Kilby, Cynthia Klobodu, & Brandy-Joe Milliron


Background: Evidence suggests that men can play a key role in influencing maternal health behaviours, potentially affecting birthing outcomes. However, that role may not be fostered in safety net programmes like the Special Supplemental Nutrition programme for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a programme for which men do not qualify.

Purpose: The primary objective of this research was to explore the experiences, expectations, and attitudes of men towards WIC.

Methods: This qualitative study employed semi-structured interviews of couples recruited at Philadelphia WIC. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Eight couples completed the interviews (16 independent interviews). Among participating fathers, only two fully participated in WIC. Barriers to participation was the primary theme identified as participants shared challenges from multiple sources. Subthemes, including fears of coercion, masculinity, and the unacknowledged role of fathers illustrated that these barriers were both internal and external to WIC and in alignment with the framework of the social ecological model (SEM).

Conclusion: These findings indicate that paternal involvement is limited due to numerous barriers, including those attributable to WIC. Future research should investigate these barriers and their intersectionality, as well as the appropriateness of WIC as an organization to foster paternal involvement.

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