CALS Course Explores Role of Fathers

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raised by a single mom, Caitlin Hawley grew up without a steady father figure in her life, so when she heard about a class at the University of Arizona that focuses specifically on the role of dads, she was intrigued.

"I wanted to get a perspective on the role of fatherhood," said the UA sophomore.

Hawley, an honors student majoring in psychology and anthropology, is one of about 150 undergraduate students to complete "Men, Fatherhood and Families: A Biocultural Perspective," a new UA general education course that was offered for the first time in the fall.

Offered through the John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, the course is part of the school's Fathers, Parenting and Families Initiative, a research and education effort within the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families.

The class – which examines the role of fathers across cultures, species and time, through biological, social and evolutionary lenses – was the vision of school benefactor John Norton.

"Part of the wish of John Norton was to be able to have young men at the University of Arizona learn something about being fathers and fatherhood – about what kind of fathering helps and what kind of fathering hurts," said Bruce Ellis, John & Doris Norton Endowed Chair in Fathers, Parenting, and Families.

"It's about the influence of fathers – when fathers invest, how they invest, when it makes a difference, when it doesn't make a difference – and trying to understand comparative perspectives on fatherhood, not just in humans but other species as well; trying to understand the larger patterns of fathering and trying to understand the evolutionary basis of fatherhood," said Ellis, who helped develop the curriculum for the class.

The course is co-taught by renowned primate researchers Dieter and Netzin Steklis, a husband-and-wife team with 20 years of experience studying mountain gorillas. They sometimes draw from their field observations when talking to their students about the role of fathers.

Read more from this March 29 UANews article at the link below.

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