Baby Makes 3
Family formation is a key time for intervention to prevent violence against women. It is a time of increased risk, as violence can often intensify during pregnancy and in the period following the birth of a child.
As a collaboration between antenatal and postnatal health services, the Baby Makes 3 project provided a significant opportunity to work with men (and women) during their transition to parenthood – a time when issues of gender roles, gender equality and family relationships are relevant and likely to be given proper consideration.
The Baby Makes 3 project was designed to adhere closely to the VicHealth (2007) framework guiding the primary prevention of violence against women, and respond to Action Theme One: Promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women. The project sought to prevent violence by:
- Supporting men and women through the transition to parenthood
- Altering traditional attitudes to gender roles
- Raising awareness of the importance of maintaining gender equality during family formation
- Providing practical skills and strategies for maintaining equal and respectful relationships.
To prevent violence against women it is crucial to target men. By targeting first-time fathers, the project not only acknowledged that men have a positive role to play in helping to end violence against women, but also in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of children.
The Baby Makes 3 team was established within the Primary Health Care Program at Whitehorse Community Health Service. A reference group made up of representatives from the partner organisations and other key stakeholders was also established to provide program direction.
Objective 1: To engage men and women attending antenatal clinics, or childbirth education classes in individual, couple or group work to increase their awareness of how attitudes to gender roles and gender equality can influence the health of their relationships and their family's wellbeing.
Objective 2: To engage men and women attending 'new parents groups' at Maternal and Child Health Centres in the City of Whitehorse, in at least two group sessions aimed at promoting equal and respectful relationships during early parenthood.
Objective 3: To engage midwives and Maternal Child Health nurses in partner organisations in professional development workshops to increase skills and understanding of family violence prevention by promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women during the transition to parenthood.
The project identified outcomes at the individual/family relationship level and the broader organisational level.
For families and individuals, the project saw:
- Enhanced ability of families to cope with relationship and lifestyle changes, and greater awareness among new parents of how attitudes to traditional gender roles affected relationship equality
- Increased capacity of families to manage the stresses of family formation
- Respectful and equitable gender relations
- Men behaving responsibly, respectfully and in non-violent ways towards their partner
- Improved skills in non-violent conflict resolution
- Improved connections to resources and support.
For organisations, the project observed:
- Greater awareness among health professionals of how attitudes to traditional gender roles can affect relationship equality
- Increased capacity of services to respond holistically to first-time families
- Greater collaboration across sectors to address family violence
- Expanded knowledge as to the effectiveness of family violence prevention programs.