Methods: We used information provided by fathers who participated in the first two waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) for our analysis. The FFCWS is a national, longitudinal study that follows children born in 20 US cities, with populations over 200,000, first beginning in 1998 and 2000 (Reichman, Teitler, Garfinkel, & McLanahan, 2001). For this analysis, relationship quality was operationalized as social engagement and emotional supportiveness—each were assessed at Time 1 shortly after the birth of the child. These measures of relationship quality were then used to predict the father's active and passive engagement with their child at Time 2 when the child was approximately one year old. We conducted the analysis via structural equation modeling, utilizing multiple groups and controlling for the amount of time the mother and father co-resided.
Results: The analyzed model provided adequate fit to the data, χ˛ = 129.30, df = 47, p < .001; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .03, 90% CI [.02 to .03]; and SRMR = .02. Model results indicated the two dimensions of relationship quality were positively related to a father's involvement with his child across races. However, while the overall trend was similar for the general population and American Indians, there were key differences in the strength of the relationships. Model results indicated that relationship quality is a more salient factor in father engagement of American Indian men than it is for fathers in the general population, particularly regarding the emotional supportiveness of the mother.
Conclusions and Implications: The child engagement level of American Indian fathers appeared to be influenced by a combination of social engagement and emotional supportiveness. However, for fathers in the general population it appeared social engagement was the key aspect of relationship quality in a father's engagement with his child. Our findings indicate, within a family systems framework, practitioners seeking to increase American Indian father involvement should utilize culturally sensitive supports that enhance the partners' shared social engagement and emotional supportiveness of the mother.