Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16983 Predictors and Outcomes of Father Nurturance In African American Families

Friday, January 13, 2012: 3:00 PM
Constitution D (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Otima Doyle, PhD, Assistant Professor, Duke University, Durham, NC
Michael Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, Associate Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Edward Pecukonis, PhD, Director, Maternal and Child Health Leadership Development Program, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Background and Purpose: Growing evidence supports the importance of fathers' nurturing behaviors regarding many youth outcomes including psychological well-being (Amato & Gilbreth, 1999; Rohner & Veneziano, 2001). Some studies show that father nurturance is as important as and occasionally more influential than mother nurturance (Rohner & Veneziano). Despite growing evidence, father nurturance is understudied, particularly among African Americans (Rohner & Veneziano). Understanding nurturance among this population is important because nurturing characteristics are vulnerable to stressful social circumstances (e.g., unemployment, poverty) (Rohner & Khaleque, 2005). Such circumstances are disproportionately experienced by African American fathers (Behnke & Allen, 2007; DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2008). Further, fathers' nurturing behaviors are more salient for youth outcomes than the quantity of time spent together (Lamb & Tamis-Lemonda, 2004). Quantity of time; however, is a necessary condition for quality relationships (Amato & Gilbreth). African American fathers are involved with their children (King & Heard, 1999); however, they are also highly represented among unmarried fathers (McLanahan & Carlson, 2004). For some unmarried fathers involvement decreases over time (Edin, Tach, & Mincy, 2009). Our objective is to contribute to the developing profile of African American fathers in family life by: 1) identifying socio-demographic and familial factors associated with father nurturance; and 2) examining the relationship between youth psychological well being and parental nurturance.

Method: African American students (n=264) attending a Historically Black University in the Mid-Atlantic Region completed a self-administered survey consisting of demographic questions and three scales: the Parental Acceptance/Rejection Questionnaire (Rohner & Khaleque, 2005), the Nurturant Fathering Scale (Finley & Schwartz, 2004), and the Personality Assessment Questionnaire (Rohner & Khaleque). Two multiple regression analyses were conducted. The first explored predictors of father nurturance. The second explored the relationship between father and mother nurturance, and youth psychological well-being.

Results: Frequency (B=.12 t=2.02, p=.045) and duration (B=.399, t=5.47, p<.0005) of interaction with the participant's father predicted father nurturance. Respondents whose parents were married or cohabitating (B=12.67, t=2.94, p=.004) had lower levels of overall psychological well-being. Mother nurturance (B=.83, t=6.0, p<.0005), but not father nurturance, was positively related to overall youth psychological well-being.

Implications: Previous research suggests that “just being there” is valued by African American fathers. Given the social and family contexts many African American families face, fathers' ability to maintain frequent contact over the long haul may also be perceived as nurturing by youth. Though not significant, the association between father nurturance and youth psychological well-being was in the expected direction. Significant positive relationships were found with the emotional components of psychological well-being (instability and unresponsiveness). The unexpected, inverse relationship between marital status and youth psychological well-being warrants future research to determine which aspects of the parents' relationship negatively impact youth. By incorporating fathers into family based programs and case management services, social workers can help families understand of the importance of frequent and long term father involvement; and the relationship between father nurturance and youths' emotional functioning. By assessing parental relationships social workers can help identify which aspects of these relationships negatively influence youth's psychological well-being.