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12 June 2013, 08:55 | Updated: 12 June 2013, 09:07
TV characters like Homer Simpson and Daddy Pig from 'Peppa Pig' are damaging children's perceptions of fatherhood, according to a new study by Hertfordshire-based parenting website Netmums.
Ninety three per cent of parents surveyed said they agreed that the portrayal of dads in the media does not represent what fathers contribute to their families in real life.
The survey's found almost half of parents (46%) aren't happy with books, adverts and children’s TV shows like Peppa Pig, The Simpsons and even the Flintstones which show dads as lazy or stupid.
This casual contempt for men is thought to be most worrying in children’s programmes and books as they fail to give youngsters good male role models – but the discrimination continues into grown-up shows including My Family, Outnumbered and Shameless.
Netmums say the growing numbers of adverts and programmes showing men as incompetent come at a time when families have never needed fathers more.
The in-depth study is the first to compare mums and dads’ feelings on fatherhood in the UK, and the parents who took part in the study are clear that the role of dads is becoming increasingly important.
Almost three in five (54 per cent) agree ‘Society is beginning to be more appreciative of how important a dad’s role is’ and ‘Dads are much closer to their kids than in the past, as it’s more acceptable to show emotion’.
But a third (31%) still believe mums continue to be viewed as more important than dads and worryingly one in 20 claim society sees dads as ‘feckless, lazy or sperm donors’.
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: “It’s never been harder to be a father – but good dads have never been more needed by their families. So it seems perverse we are telling men to step up and be involved, while running them down in the media.
“The type of jokes aimed at dads would be banned if they were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups. Some people claim it’s ‘just a joke’ – but there’s nothing amusing about taking away good role models for young boys.
“Academic studies show children with involved fathers do far better at school, have a much lower chance of getting involved in crime and have better mental health, so we should be celebrating and encouraging what dads do well.
“With the current tough economic climate and UK’s long working hours culture, being an involved dad isn’t always easy so it’s great to see so many dads saying how much fatherhood has improved their lives. It takes two to make a baby and as the results of this study show, it’s increasingly taking two to raise a child. Whether dads are still with their partners or not, more men are realising families need fathers and are trying their best to be good dads.”