An Exploratory Analysis of Father Involvement and Depression Among Middle Class African American Women
Methods:This study uses data from waves 1, 3 and 4 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which was designed to assess the health and health-related behaviors of adolescents and emerging adults. To obtain a nationally representative sample, the primary researchers used a school cluster sampling design of adolescents in grades 7-12 and collected data over 4 waves. The primary study over sampled for African American adolescents with at least one college educated parent. The current study includes 273 African American women who were in the over sampled sub-group. Father involvement during adolescence was measured by the women’s report of closeness to their biological father, level of shared activities, level of communication, and level of contact in waves 1 and 3. Ever having experienced paternal incarceration was measured as a proxy of father involvement in wave 4. Depressive symptoms were measured using a modified version of the Beck Depression Inventory in waves 1, 3, and 4. OLS regression models were used to explore whether or not father involvement during adolescence was a predictor of depressive symptoms in adulthood. These models controlled for age, adult relationship status, depressive symptoms at wave 1 and 3, highest level of education, and current income.
Results: The overall model of father involvement was significant (F (9, 102) = 3.82, p = 0.00) and explained 27 % of the variance in adult expression of depressive symptoms among middle class African American women. Level of contact with father during adolescence was a significant predictor of adulthood depressive symptoms (b = 0.04, SE = 0.02, p =.0.03). Father’s incarceration history was a significant predictor of depressive symptoms (b= 0.17, SE = 0.08, p = 0.03). Women’s current level of income was a significant predictor of depressive symptoms (b= -0.04, SE = 0.01, p= 0.00).
Implications: Depression and father involvement among middle class African American women is a neglected topic. Results of this study suggest that contact between middle class African American adolescent girls and their fathers can serve as a protective factor against depressive symptoms in adulthood and suggest the need for further investigations by social work researchers to explore the unique contextual factors between father involvement and the life course of depressive symptoms.