Credentials of Corresponding Author
Name of Faculty Advisor
As the journey of parenthood begins, men may struggle to identify with their roles as new fathers. Gay men face the same challenges which may be further complicated by internalized perceptions of not belonging to the societal norm of a “traditional” family. While fathers play a significant role in family dynamics and children’s development and well-being, little is known about the experiences of new fathers. Furthermore, there is limited research on gay men who are becoming or are fathers.
To (1) identify the experiences of heterosexual and gay fathers as they begin the journey of fatherhood, and (2) explore additional barriers that are unique to gay fathers.
Literature search via CINAHL, PubMed, and PsycInfo. Keywords included gay parent(hood), father(hood), gay, support, challenges, stress, NICU, and post-discharge.
Results of literature search
Twenty-two articles were reviewed. Ten articles described or demonstrated factors that affect heterosexual fathers’ sense of their identity as a parent. Twelve additional articles were reviewed detailing known factors affecting gay men both preceding and following becoming fathers.
Synthesis of evidence
The most notable overlap in the experiences of both heterosexual and gay fathers was their internalized stigma concerning competency in their new roles. Facilitating factors of fathers’ sense of self-efficacy were identified, e.g. skin-to-skin care, single-family rooms, peer-to-peer support, and improved access to informational technology. Gay men experienced additional legal and financial barriers surrounding surrogacy or adoption; these barriers impacted their access to and experience of fatherhood. Although research indicates that up to 16% of gay men are fathers, the distinct gap in literature and lack of evidence-based interventions make it challenging to assess and support their emerging families in clinical settings
Implications for practice
Future investigations are warranted to comprehensively understand the unique needs of fathers, especially gay fathers and their families. It is also a clinical priority to develop and test interventions to support heterosexual and gay fathers. Additionally, ongoing training and education for healthcare providers may reduce social stigma and establish trust and open communication in clinical settings.
Becoming Fathers: Experiences of Heterosexual and Gay Men