Father Involvement Research 2008: Conference
Conference Report (pdf 131kb)
This document is a report on the conference Father Involvement 2008, hosted by FIRA in Toronto from October 22 - 24, 2008. The report includes synopses of the five keynote addresses along with a description of themes covered in breakout sessions (with examples) and conference statistics.
Promoting Father Involvement Through National Policies: Assessing What Matters (Keynote Address) (pptx 164kb)
With reference to studies of father involvement in different countries over the past four decades, Coltrane asks what has changed in fathers’ participation in parenting and domestic work and raises questions about how social policies are related to behavioral and demographic shifts. Do most family-friendly or child-friendly policies encourage men to spend more time with children? Which policies and programs are associated with higher levels of father involvement? Which forms of father involvement should we be promoting? How do we know if promoting father involvement works? And finally, do father-friendly policies really promote more involvement, or are they the result of cultural shifts that have already occurred? Coltrane will summarize new collaborative efforts to answer some of these questions using Time Use data from Europe and North America, and cross-national social policy comparisons.
Why Does Father Involvement Promote Child and Adolescent Development:Addressing an Under Theorized Issue (Keynote Address) (ppt 904kb)
Supporting the fatherhood practitioner community’s work to encourage father involvement, fatherhood scholars in recent years have made important theoretical advances. In addition, researchers have used increasingly sophisticated designs to document the benefits of great father involvement for children, in particular showing that father involvement has effects independent of mother involvement. However, missing in both recent theoretical advances and empirical research is progress on the most under-theorized issue concerning father involvement today: exactly why father involvement does or should promote development. This paper critically analyzes four theoretical perspectives, used explicitly or implicitly in current work, about the processes of paternal influence: attachment theory, essential father theory, Bronfenbrenner ecological theory with its concept of proximal process and social capital theory. The promise that attachment theory holds for the conceptualization of paternal influence is limited to the rather small attachment research community. Essential father theory is widely accepted by the lay public and even among professionals, but empirical support for fathers making an essential and unique contribution to development is at present quite weak. Bronfenbrenner’s concept of proximal process and the social capital framework provide the best available foundation for theory about exactly how fathering promotes, or does not promote, development. The paper concludes by developing an integrated, ecological-parental capital, theory of paternal influences on development. In developing this integrated theory, the paper addresses how practitioners can best provide strong support for greater father involvement without making essentialist assumptions about fathers’ unique contributions.
It Takes A Village (Exploring the Role of Otherfathers in African Communities in the Diaspora) (ppt 840kb)
Whilst we see much in the literature about the role of Black mothers in raising their sons, there is little written about the role of fathers. Furthermore, much of what is found often pathologizes and marginalizes the experiences of Black men, especially fathers. In addition to systemic racism, the most significant impact on the psyche of Black men within the last 20 years has been the distortion and misrepresentation of Black men and â€˜blacknessâ€™ within the mass media. It is within this genre of information gathering, assumption making and information sharing that the images of Black men as fathers gets scripted and distorted. This new linear narrative of Black masculinity then becomes the normative view of Black men and fathers, a view that often gets internalized by members of the Black community, especially Black adolescents. This keynote address challenges many of those assumptions, through an examination of the role of Black fathers, otherfathers and community fathers in African communities in the Diaspora. Using a reflective analysis of data gathered in several projects about Black fathers, this keynote will share ideas on the significance of otherfathers in Black communities. Highlighting the challenges and successes, from the perspectives of Black sons, we will hear about the role of fathers and otherfathers in these menâ€™s lives, focusing on stories these men told about their fathers and their experiences with other men in their lives. I assert that otherfathers and community fathers are a critical component for healthy parenting in African-Canadian communities and for building capacity in those communities.
Developmental Consequences of Father Involvement for Men and Their Children (pptx 987kb)
As both fathers and children mature across time and contexts, father-child relationships represent unique opportunities for men and their children to experience developmental changes. Patterns of early interaction, fathering in challenging circumstances, distinctive paternal contributions to child development, transitions within fathering, and gender differences in care represent topics that provide windows for exploring the interactive unfolding of father-child relationships across time. Focusing on fathersâ€™ involvement with their children thereby affords unique opportunities for understanding the intricacies of intergenerational relationships and development. This presentation covers a diverse range of father involvement patterns in varied contexts of engagement with their children and developmental outcomes associated with interaction histories over time. Program participants will be challenged to develop applied perspectives from theoretical and empirical views of father-child relationships across time.
Father Involvement Content in Parent Education Programs in B C (ppt 260kb)
This paper presents data retrieved through a content analysis of 17 formal parent education programs offered in BC that was conducted in 2007 at the University of Victoria, in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Program directors answered contextual questions about their program in a telephone interview and shared program materials for analysis. The program materials were analyzed for content regarding father involvement in parenting young children. While one of the limitations of the study is that the analysis was made on the intended curriculum rather than what happens during program delivery, it is an important analysis that points to the intentionality of formal parent education programs to include father involvement in the many issues that are related to parenting young children. The key finding of the project was that father involvement content was not significantly included in most programs, even though all were offered to fathers. Four programs, however, did include specific content regarding father involvementand this paper focuses on those programs: the content that was included; the differences between the four programs; and how those four programs hold the possibility of being models for other parent education programs to include father involvement information directly. A brief review of the research project methodology, as well as highlights regarding the implications of the lack of father involvement content found and suggestions for future research will be included.
How Children Affect Fathersâ€™ Health and Health Behaviours (ppt 758kb)
Parental behaviors directly influence child outcomes. Yet, little research has identified how children influence parental behaviors. Even less is known about how fatherhood may impact menâ€™s health. Using a diverse, urban sample of new fathers, we examine how fatherhood impacts menâ€™sâ€™ health attitudes and behaviors. Methods: Participants were a qualitative sub-sample of fathers from the U.S. nationally representative Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study interviewed in Milwaukee and Chicago for 1.5 hours when their child was ~3 yrs old on the effect of having children and their health behaviors. Content and narrative analysis methods were used to analyze the data. Results: Our response rate was 94%; the 31 fathers in our sample had a mean age of 31; 56% were African American; 55% were non-married; 61% were residential; 41% had an income of â‰¤ $34,999; and 61% obtained â‰¤ a high school diploma. The majority of fathers described positive changes to their health as a result of having a child. â€œStaying healthyâ€ in order â€œto be aroundâ€ for their childâ€™s future and modeling positive health behaviors motivated many fathers. Fathers reported eating healthier, exercising more, and decreasing alcohol consumption. Smaller numbers of fathers described â€œless partyingâ€ and trying to lose weight. Though most fathers reported having a doctor, many fathers had not been in >1 year. Most reported negative attitudes toward seeing a doctor. Common themes included â€œhatingâ€ going, fearing they would â€œfind something wrong,â€ and having to be â€œvery sickâ€ before seeing a doctor. Conclusions: Becoming a father is a time to re-examine health priorities and make positive changes. Initial negative help-seeking attitudes may lead to more health-conscious behaviors. As children influence fathersâ€™ health, fathers may influence child health. Acknowledging and supporting the role of fathers in modeling healthy behaviors for children may be a unique way of influencing positive child and father outcomes.
Linking Research and Policy on Father Involvement (Paper Presentation) (ppt 3.44Mb)
This paper reports on a Realist Review of the evidence relating to father involvement and family wellbeing. In late 2007 the South Australian Health Department commissioned a review of the research evidence linking fathers involvement with their children under five years and family wellbeing. Specifically, the Department sought advice on the evidential base for seeking to include fathers in the proposed establishment of 20 new Children’s Centres to provide integrated education, family support and health services across the state. In health-related policy areas randomised control trials (RCTs) have become accepted as the gold standard for evidence and there are established protocols for researchers conducting systematic reviews of evidence pertaining to treatments and interventions. However, there is also growing recognition that interventions addressing complex social issues cannot be properly evaluated by RCTs which, by their nature, minimize complexity and, even when taken together, cannot explain why the intervention worked or under what circumstances it is likely to work again. An alternative approach to the use of evidence to inform policy is a Realist Review which seeks to unpack the multiple assumptions which are implied in complex social interventions to allow each element to be tested by reference to evidence. In this paper the processes involved in the Realist Review of fathers involvement and family well-being as well as the conclusions reached by the project will be described.
Emotions in Becoming a Father (pdf 598kb)
In this study, we concentrated on the different emotions in becoming a father for the first time. The study material consists of the narratives of 27 men (aged 20 to 42 years) with varying life experiences and situations. The data were gathered through interviews. On the path along to fatherhood, many men had â€˜emotional surprisesâ€™, that is, confronting new, awakening, strong and sometimes quiescent emotions. We have extracted four emotion-types that characterize the way men describe their experiences and emotions concerning the pregnancy-test, pregnancy and the delivery. The types are:â€˜empathizers,’ ‘hesitaters,’ â€˜reporters,’ and ‘humorists.â€™ The â€˜empathizersâ€™ represent a culturally new, and in this study, reigning male type, which are conscious and certain about their emotions and have the capability of launching into it and talking about it openly. These men are also anxious about and attentive to their spousesâ€™ needs. The â€˜hesitatersâ€™ in turn are afraid, uncertain and uneasy about their emotions, but confess their hesitancy openly. The third type, â€˜reportersâ€™ are those men who describe their experiences in technical detail, dwelling on every little detail and avoiding in this way their own emotion-talk. The fourth type, â€˜humoristsâ€™ means those whose stories are told with â€˜manlyâ€™ humor and who in this way avoid facing their own emotions.
Exploring Mothers’ Beliefs About Fatherhood (pdf 1.22Mb)
Current research focuses on the benefits of father involvement and how to increase the amount of father involvement within families. Parallel to the father involvement research, is an increased interest in the subject of maternal gate-keeping behaviours, behaviours that mothers engage in which may impede a fatherâ€™s access to his children. Although research in areas of father involvement, maternal gate-keeping and transition to parenthood all seem to agree that maternal beliefs and ideologies are important predictors of paternal involvement in the home, there seems to be little research looking at where mothersâ€™ beliefs and expectations for fathers originate. This study proposes a qualitative study looking at mothersâ€™ beliefs about the fathering role and attempts to identify some of the factors that shape these beliefs and subsequent expectations for the fathers of their children. Knowledge generated from this study will potentially have implications for research on father involvement, gender ideology, maternal gate-keeping and transition to parenthood. The results may also impact the development of parent support programs and a greater understanding of the impacts of gender ideologies and socialization.
Results of an Early Intervention Program Designed for Fathers and their 12 - 24 month-old Child (pdf 2.43Mb)
Early intervention services are recognized as an effective strategy to avert the negative impact of poverty. Most of these programs center on stimulating child development, strengthening parent-child relations and providing parents with adequate parenting skills. In spite of the growing evidence of the importance of paternal involvement for the childâ€™s development, early intervention programs continue to address the relational style and the interests and needs of mothers. As a result, fathers are remarkably absent from these services even though they are often invited to participate. This communication will present the preliminary results of the evaluation of an early intervention program specifically designed for fathers and their toddlers. Thirty father-child dyads were evaluated beforeand after their participation in a series of12 bi-weekly workshops. Assessments covered dimensions of child development, parenting practices, parenting stress, parent-child attachment and co-parenting. In addition, each co-animation team composed of a male-female therapistâ€™s tandem provided journal entriesfollowing each workshop session.
It’s Different with Dad! (An Innovative Public Health Initiative to Include Fathers in Early Intervention Programs) (gif 1.79Mb)
In spite of growing evidence of fathers’ specific contributions to children’s socioemotional and cognitive development, fathers are practically absent from early intervention initiatives. Recent conceptualizations of early father-child relationships suggest the need to include fathers in early intervention programs. However, such programs do not exist. This poster presents It’s different with dad!, an early intervention program which is devised specifically for the father and his young child. Based on empirical research addressing the specific needs and interactive preferences of fathers of young children, this program aims at attaining the general goals of early intervention programs delivered by Quebec’s public health system in economically disadvantaged areas. The program comprises 15 father-infant group-delivered workshops centered on active and dynamic father-child interactions that aim at developing the father-child relationship around the core concepts of stimulation, protection/control and warmth/soothing. The program is characterized by a flexible participation schedule and by the intervention’s philosophy centered on the here and now of ongoing father-child interactions. Implemented in community health centers in Québec for the last three years, the program stimulates child development and consolidates father involvement.
Low Income Non-Resident Father Involvement with Their Toddler (ppt 298kb)
Using data from a racially and ethnically diverse sample of low-income mothers of two-year-old children participating in the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (N = 883), fathersâ€™ education and employment, mother-father relationship, and mothersâ€™ relationships with kin in the household will be examined to explain variation in nonresident father involvement across racial and ethnic groups. Nonresident White fathers are generally less involved with their children than African-American and Latino fathers. This difference is usually explained by the status of mother-father relationships. White nonresident fathers are less likely than minority nonresident fathers to maintain romantic relationships with their childâ€™s mother and mothers in the White father group are also more likely to re-partner, which is negatively related to biological fathersâ€™ involvement. In this paper we examine whether a positive coparenting relationship between mother and father improves father involvement even when the romantic relationship ends. Because of the differences in the nature of the mother-father relationship and in the types of father involvement with their children, the sources of coparenting and the relationship between coparenting and father involvement needs to be explored in detail across race-ethnic groups. Implications for public policy will be explored.
Fathering in the Early Years (How Family Physicians Can Help) (ppt 219kb)
An increasing amount of research indicates the importance of fathers in their childrenâ€™s intellectual, emotional and social development in the early years from birth to six years of age. At the same time, there are few programs to assist fathers to develop their parenting skills. Fathers are often unaware of the importance of their regular contact with their child. Community-based programs are limited to English-speaking fathers whose children were between one and six years of age but pilot programs have now been developed with the many multicultural communities, especially recent immigrants. Several of the language programs now invite mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers to attend because grandparents often provide parenting to their grandchildren when both parents are in the work force. The Focus on Fathers programs for fathers of children from birth to six years of age were set up in 1999 because of the content of programs includes topics such as attachment, unexpected illness and disability, postpartum depression, effective parenting, dealing with anger, conflict resolution and problem solving. The goals of this workshop include: To review the evidence on the importance 1. of fathers in child development. To network with other family physicians 2. on the topic of the challenges of involving fathers child rearing and healthy families. To have an open interactive discussion 3. on fathersâ€™programs across Canada, including the focus on fathers program.
Gay Dads in the UK (Rewriting the Fatherhood Manual) (ppt 80kb)
In the UK, recent family literature has employed the notion of â€˜family practicesâ€™ to unpick traditional notions about gendered roles and â€˜the familyâ€™ as an institution. A growing body of research has begun to shed light on ways in which â€˜families of choiceâ€™ headed by non-heterosexual men and women are reconceptualising â€˜family lifeâ€™ into new forms. However, so far there has been little empirical research about non-heterosexual fathers and their â€˜doingâ€™ of fatherhood. I have completed a study of 32 non-heterosexual British fathers who took a variety of routes to fatherhood for my PhD (based in the Department of Politics at the University of Manchester, UK). This asked participants to outline what percentage of various parenting tasks they did and what percentage each of the other significant adults in their childrenâ€™s lives did. It also involved semi-structured interviews with 15 non-heterosexual fathers (10 of whom had become fathers via heterosexual relationships â€“ half had later separated from their wives; and 5 of whom were donor/foster fathers who were â€˜outâ€™ when they became fathers). I found that proximity to children through co-residence with the mother was a key factor in shaping the fathersâ€™ â€˜doingâ€™ of fatherhood; that all the fathers (regardless of the route to fatherhood) had to a greater or lesser extent based their doing of fatherhood on widely accepted scripts of (heterosexual) fatherhood; and that many had experienced various forms of exclusion from active fatherhood.