Accessing Fathers for Clinically Relevant Research: Recommendations From the Field
Growing research documents the importance of fathers in the lives of their children and the influence of children’s behaviors on fathers’ functioning. However, research conducted from fathers’ perspectives is rare, in part because fathers are often viewed as difficult to recruit. Few articles describe optimal methods for recruiting fathers of pre-adolescent and adolescent youth into clinically relevant studies. Therefore, our objective is to describe effective recruitment strategies used in two independent pilot studies of fathers: 1) a community-based, qualitative study examining the parenting experiences of African American fathers of at-risk pre-adolescent sons (The Voices ‘n Visions Project; VV) and; 2) an NIMH-funded, clinical study examining the impact of youth hospitalization due to a suicide attempt on fathers’ psychiatric health, parenting practices, and follow through with youth’s treatment (The IMPACT study, father supplement).
We applied methods suggested in the literature for recruiting both minority and male participants into clinically relevant research. In the VV Study, we utilized community-based recruitment methods such as: 1) collaboration with community liaisons; 2) face-to-face recruitment; 3) recruitment by word of mouth; and 4) distribution of flyers. In the IMPACT study, we used diverse staff (including male and African American staff) to recruit fathers. We also implemented a tracking strategy; nuanced our approach to recruit fathers directly, rather than indirectly through mothers; and addressed recruiters’ concerns about engaging fathers (e.g., assumptions that fathers are not willing to participate). Results
In the VV study, we recruited an average of 8 biological fathers per month. One father declined participation. The following recruitment strategies yielded the most participants: face-to-face recruitment in the community (n=15); word of mouth (n=12); and distribution of flyers (n=6). On average, fathers were 41 years old and were primarily residential (66%).
In the IMPACT study, we recruited an average of 1.375 fathers per month. Prior to implementing a tracking system, the recruitment rate was .66 per month; however, once implemented recruitment increased to 1.5 fathers per month. One father declined participation. On average, fathers were 47 years old and were primarily biological (81%), married (94%), and white (77%). Conclusions and Implications
Conclusions and Implications
We provide evidence of the feasibility of recruiting fathers into clinically relevant research, regardless of study or demographic differences. Recruiting fathers directly, rather than through mothers, may increase recruitment rates as evidenced by the high rate of recruitment in the VV Study and our observations in the IMPACT study. It is noteworthy that both recruitment strategies require considerable face-to-face time with potential participants and community liaisons; therefore, adequate staffing is required to accommodate such demands. Our recruitment experiences with fathers are important to clinical social work focused on children and families and provide invaluable insight about effective strategies to engage diverse fathers in clinically relevant research that may inform family-based, clinical interventions. We discuss lessons learned about mothers as gatekeepers, similarities and differences in recruiting fathers for community-based and clinical studies, and addressing challenges and obstacles on the part of the research team.