Building Father Inclusive Interventions to Improve Parenting
A mounting body of research reaffirms the contribution of fathers to child and family well-being and the influence of fathers’ participation in services on parenting intervention outcomes. Unfortunately, fathers continue to be neglected in child and family interventions and research. Although some studies have described the barriers that contribute to the low levels of father participation in parenting interventions, there has been very little empirical exploration and testing of strategies aimed at addressing these barriers.
This symposium is organized around three papers describing results from parenting intervention development research designed to develop and empirically examine strategies to increase the engagement of fathers. The interventions target key father and family outcomes including: improved father parenting skills, increased positive co-parenting, and reduction of father-related risk factors that contribute to child behavioral problems and child maltreatment.
The three papers included in this symposium focus different parenting interventions at the forefront of research on engagement of fathers in parenting interventions. The first paper illuminates how military fathers of preschool aged children adjust to their return to family life following deployment in order to more effectively engage military fathers in a parenting intervention (STRoNG Families), which is designed to support this transition. Using qualitative data this study highlights the unique parenting intervention needs of fathers reunited with families following deployment. The second paper describes the development and empirical testing of strategies to engage African American fathers in an evidence-based parent training program, Triple P. Using focus groups and interview data collected during a randomized experimental pilot study, the process undertaken to develop the engagement approach and preliminary process findings are explored. The third and final paper describes a father involvement enhancement intervention component (Dads Matter), which designed to be folded into standard home visiting services for low-income families. Quantitative and qualitative data are used to examine the feasibility and acceptability of this intervention enhancement in the context of a quasi-experimental pilot study.
Though each of the studies are focused on unique service populations and parenting interventions, common themes emerge across the studies including fathers’ willingness and motivation to engage in parenting intervention and challenges related to co-parenting and addressing relationships with the mothers of their children. In addition to highlighting these common threads across study findings, another strength of this symposium include presentation of data collected directly from fathers, which has been a limitation of many prior studies of father engagement. Other strengths include the examination of a variety of child and family service contexts and a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches.
These projects represent the cutting edge of research in this nascent and challenging area of study. Collectively they advance knowledge of the service needs of fathers, barriers to fathers’ engagement in parenting interventions, and promising strategies and approaches that will guide future research and intervention development in the field. These papers represent a broader research agenda moving this area of research beyond the description of father engagement barriers toward empirically supported engagement strategies.