University of Tasmania
Thomas_whole_thesis.pdf (3.53 MB)

Sex ed dads : a mixed methods study of Australian fathers' perspectives on relationships and sexuality education for their young children

Download (3.53 MB)
Version 2 2024-03-21, 01:49
Version 1 2023-05-27, 19:27
posted on 2024-03-21, 01:49 authored by Thomas, KM

In Australia and many parts of the world, few children receive consistent, comprehensive, and timely relationships and sexuality education (RSE). While there is broad agreement that RSE should be taught in school and home settings from infanthood onwards, there are several gaps in the evidence about how effectively this is being done. One substantial gap is understanding the role and perspectives of fathers. This research explored Australian fathers' experiences, intentions, and aspirations as relationships and sexuality educators of their young children with the purpose of identifying strategies and resources to support their increased engagement with RSE. Specifically, it aimed to examine fathers' perspectives on: the RSE topics they value and the age they wish for their child to learn them; strategies they use as sexuality educators; society's paradigm shift regarding gender, relationships, and sexuality; their priorities regarding RSE related outcomes for their teenagers; their own involvement with RSE compared to that of their fathers; the factors that have influenced their engagement/disengagement in this domain; and the type and mode of resource they wish to access to support their engagement with RSE. To explore these aims, following sequential explanatory mixed methods research design, an online, quantitative survey was conducted with 612 diverse Australian fathers. This was followed by semi-structured interviews with 10 fathers to drill deeper into the survey findings. Statistical analyses were carried out on the quantitative survey data followed by inductive thematic analysis of the qualitative interviews. The findings were considered through the lens of Social Cognitive Theory to provide theory informed implications for schools, resource developers, and researchers wishing to enhance fathers' engagement with RSE. The results presented a promising picture of contemporary Australian fathers as relationships and sexuality educators, revealing them to be reflective, aspirational, and willing participants in their children's RSE. While some differences between socio-demographic groups were found, on the whole, participants' perspectives were aligned with a contemporary paradigm regarding gender, relationships, and sexuality that substantially differed from past generations. However, a previously identified gap between fathers' intentions and their actual participation in RSE persisted in these findings, highlighting a need for further research and development aiming to close this gap. On this basis, this thesis argues that, with a concerted effort to design and facilitate father-specific resourcing and support structures, tremendous potential exists within fathers to increase the reach and efficacy of RSE for Australian children.



  • PhD Thesis


xxiv, 275 pages


College of Arts, Law and Education


University of Tasmania

Publication status

  • Unpublished

Event title


Date of Event (Start Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2022 the author.


Chapter 3 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Thomas, K., Patterson, K., Nash, R., Swabey, K., 2021. What have dads got to do with it? : Australian fathers’ perspectives on communicating with their young children about relationships and sexuality, Sex education, 22(2), 169-183. Chapter 4 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Thomas, K., Patterson, K., Nash, R., Swabey, K., 2022. Sex ed dads: what Australian fathers want their teens to know about relationships and sexuality, Sex education, 22(4), 447-464. Chapter 5 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Thomas, K., Nash, R., Patterson, K., Swabey, K., 2023. Dad taught me nothing about relationships and sexuality: how contemporary Australian fathers became sex ed dads, Culture, health and sexuality, 25(3), 287-303.

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager