The father as a full-fledged parent

Position paper
Stel geeft elkaar een zoen, vrouw is zwanger.

It is time to re-evaluate the position of fathers as parents. Until recently, only the biological mother of a child was really considered a client in the healthcare and welfare system in the process around getting pregnant, during pregnancy, at birth and, in some cases, during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. This means that financing of the provision of care is based on the hours of care needed for the (future) mother and the child. A financial incentive to involve the father in this, and thus providing care and support to the entire (future) family, is missing. 

That is why the initiators behind this position paper, consisting of civil organisations, experts and scientists, are calling for political parties to consider fathers full-fledged parents in the context of maternity care.  

The importance of getting fathers involved 

Research shows that partners, and fathers in particular, were until recently only involved in the care process around getting pregnant, the pregnancy itself, birth and the first 1,000 days after birth to a limited extent. Fathers indicate that they are rarely addressed and feel like they are simply watching everything from a distance. Getting the father involved is important for close parent-child relationships and children’s development. Having the father take on a more involved role is ultimately associated with a better socioeconomic situation, decreased involvement of youth care and less risky problematic behaviour. 

Cultural shift  

The call for a transition to better involvement of fathers is becoming more visible in society. The expansion of paternal leave to include fathers is an example of this. In spite of existing initiatives, fathers are currently still regularly overlooked. The time has come for a cultural shift, in which it becomes normal for both the mother and the father to be involved as (future) parents at an early stage. The initiators behind this position paper are linking up with the goal of the national action programme ”Kansrijke start” (A promising start) to give children of (future) parents in vulnerable situations the healthiest possible start to their life.  

Violet Petit-Steeghs

Violet Petit-Steeghs, coordinator

“The involvement of fathers should not depend on individual care providers, and we should ensure this becomes part and parcel of the healthcare and welfare system.”

Role of client 

The initiators call for research into the possibility of assigning the role of client to the father (or to other partners). This will require an amendment of the Healthcare Insurance Act (Zvw), so that healthcare for the farther is reimbursed alongside healthcare and support for the mother and her child. Granting fathers the role of client would be one possible way of increasing the extent to which fathers are involved. Health care providers and emergency workers will be given time to establish contact with both (future) parents. Additionally, the role of client could work as a driver for a further cultural shift, which is necessary for the father to be considered a full-fledged parent. 

Assistant professor
PhD student
Assistant professor
More information

For more information, please contact Violet Petit-Steeghs at

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