FIRA's initial research project ended on December 31, 2010. However, knowledge transfer related to this project continues. Some papers and other publications are still in development. An interim steering committee is seeking funding for potential new projects. In the meantime, FIRA continues to network with researchers and practioners around the world and to support knowledge development and dissemination through this website and the FIRA E-bulletin.
Description of FIRA's Initial Research Project (as developed in 2003)
In January 2004 FIRA began a five-year program of activities involving researchers from ten Canadian universities and practitioners from at least 20 community-based organizations and services. This project is funded by the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) program of Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Community-university research partnerships are increasingly seen as important agents of joint learning and societal change, and in recent years, governments have placed a strong emphasis on the development of programs that involve collaboration among practitioners, consumers, policy makers and researchers. FIRA's CURA proposal was shaped by three years of national partnership building with fathers, policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.
Our CURA research agenda acknowledges and takes as a primary value the importance of examining father involvement as a diverse, multifaceted, and complex experience. The program seeks to heighten awareness of the benefits of father involvement and barriers to it under a variety of family conditions, and to engage fathers and those who work with fathers in a process of developing community-based strategies for change. We are committed to an agenda of research that is uniquely Canadian and shaped by the shared interests of fathers and their families, practitioners who serve these fathers, and researchers who wish to use the tools of social science to support research informed community initiatives.
1. Fatherhood Research Clusters: Engaging for Change
Research with socially defined subpopulations of fathers. Seven different research clusters are using qualitative methods in order to understand the unique challenges experienced by:
- fathers of children with special needs
- gay fathers
- immigrant fathers
- Indigenous fathers
- new fathers
- separated and divorced fathers
- young fathers
Cluster research agendas have been shaped by fathers, community service providers, and university researchers, with collaborative definitions of concerns, questions, collection, and analysis strategies. This work is geared toward social action that builds on research findings to create sustainable tools and bring about tangible changes in the organization of community services.
2. Creating a Canadian Knowledge Base on Father Involvement: Demographic Profiles and Policy Reviews
2 a. Demographic profiles
Led by Zenaida Ravanera, Population Studies Centre, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
This group is conducting a series of analyses of existing data sets in order to develop a profile of Canadian fathers: demographic information, time-use, attitudes, and the influence of fathers and children on each other's well-being.
2001 Census data has been used to build a demographic profile of fathers in general, and, in particular for fathers in research clusters for which data are available. This work has already identified gaps in the way data is collected about Canadian fathers. The group will be making recommendations to Statistics Canada about how the Canadian Census and other surveys can be designed in order to collect better data about fathers.
Data relating to father involvement is being analyzed from the 2001 General Social Survey on the Family and the 2005 General Social Survey on Time Use. This will provide information about men's attitudes and values about their children and the amount of time they spend with them.
Information from the 2003 General Social Survey on Social Engagement has been used to develop an analysis of the social capital of fathers.
The National Longitudinal Study will be examined for data which will shed light on fathers' influence on children's lives.
2b. Policy Reference Group
Led by Donna Lero, Centre for Families Work and Well-Being, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
This group is examining the ways in which various public policies impact father involvement.
An policy inventory was undertaken to identify the various ways in which current policies and institutional practices affect fathers in diverse subpopulations and social circumstances across Canada, and to encourage discussion, analysis and debate about how policies and practices might better support fathers and their families. The policy inventory is now complete. Click here to find out more.
This group has also commissioned three policy papers which look at the effect of policies on father involvement in three specific areas:
- custody and access after divorce and separation (Kruk)
- fathers, employment and work-family support (Miller and Caragata)
- social inclusion of fathers in diverse circumstances which could lead to marginalization (Long)
These papers were presented (in draft form) at FIRA's conference in May 2006, and are currently in the process of peer review and revisions, with a view to publication in 2007 or 2008.
The Policy Reference Group will conclude with policy recommendations to be made in 2008.
3. Integrative Analyses and Thematic Overview
Led by Kerry Daly, Centre for Families Work and Wellbeing, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
Each cluster groups collected data on a set of core questions designed to gather father involvement information that pertains to fathers in all clusters.
These questions will shed light on:
- father/child relationships
- children's influence on fathers
- factors that influence fathers' levels of involvement
- negotiating parenthood with partners.
The thematic working group is analyzing this data to create an overview of father involvement issues which cut across clusters. Several general themes are being explored:
- children's influence on fathers;
- developmental effects of fathering for fathers;
- role models for fathers;
- learning to be a father;
- visibility and invisibility of fathers;
- generativity and fathering:
- negotiating parenting roles
This group will produce a number of scholarly papers and conference presentations and will also make broad recommendations on key issues in father involvement to be brought forward for discussion about implications for practice and policy.