Fathers’ participation in child and family services has the potential to boost mothers’ engagement in interventions and extend outcomes (Arnold, O'Leary, & Edwards, 1997; Eckenrode et al., 2000; Fals-Stewart, Fincham, & Kelley, 2004); and positive fathering has been linked to important home visiting outcomes such as child maltreatment prevention (Dubowitz, Black, Kerr, Starr Jr., & Harrington, 2000; Guterman, Lee, Lee, Waldfogel, & Rathouz, 2009) however, the field of home visitation has largely overlooked fathers’ roles in the family. As a result, scant evidence is available to guide home visiting programs in best addressing fathers’ roles in promoting positive child and family outcomes. This study describes the preliminary results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of an enhancement to home visitation services that addresses fathers and their roles in their young children’s lives, called “Dads Matter”. Dads Matter is a manualized intervention designed to assess the fathers’ role in the family to determine how he may best be engaged to build an effective, supportive, and productive co-parenting team with the child’s mother.
A multisite clustered randomized control trial (RCT) was conducted, beginning with twenty-one home visiting program supervisors across five large organizations, including 203 families across condition. Supervisors were randomized to deliver Dads Matter enhanced services or home visiting services as usual, and those within the enhancement (intervention) condition implemented the enhancement through a train-the-trainer model. In this paper we present preliminary findings on the outcomes of the intervention on child maltreatment and co-parenting outcomes using self-report measures from both mothers and fathers including the Conflict Tactics Scale and Parenting Alliance Index. Multi-level analyses are used to accommodate the clustered nature of the data.
A high proportion of the 203 families (94%) were retained for 4-month follow-up interviews, and to date just under 90% have been retained at 1 year follow-up. Fidelity data is positive, showing that the proportion of fathers in home visits increased in the intervention condition and workers in the intervention condition increased the proportion of direct services they provide to fathers. Preliminary analysis of 4 month outcome data suggest effect sizes generally range from small to medium. The analyses indicate that the intervention increased mothers’ report of support from their partners (fathers), but that fathers’ report of support from mothers was unchanged. Child maltreatment risk outcomes are non-significant at 4-month follow up, but trending toward significant reductions in risk at 1-year follow-up.
Conclusions and Implications:
Results of this study suggest that Dads Matter is a potentially feasible, acceptable, and effective approach to increasing fathers’ engagement in services. Preliminary intervention outcomes are suggestive of improvements for families who receive home visiting enhanced with Dads Matter, as compared to families who receive home visiting alone. In particular, benefits of the engagement of fathers in home visiting services seems to accrue to mothers’ by increasing their sense of support from fathers.