Testing Gender Applicability: Measuring Fathering Behaviors With Both Male and Female Respondents
Fathering participation plays a significant role in child outcomes and family relationships (Flouri, 2005). Children with positive paternal relationships reported fewer behavior problems and less internalized or externalized distress (Dubowitz et al., 2001; Stocker et al., 2003). This presentation will report gender specific findings on five instruments that aimed to measure “fathering behaviors” from both mothers and fathers to identify predicting variables to explain fathering participation.
An e-survey was conducted to focus on “fathering behavior” from the perspectives of parents in the same household including mothering/fathering figures with the identified child. The research question was: Are the selected instruments suitable for both male and female caregivers to identify contributing factors that explain fathering behaviors? The survey consisted of demographic questions and five instruments: 1) The Parenting Alliance Inventory (20-item) assessed co-parenting relationship; 2) Inventory of Father Involvement (6-item x 2) assessed satisfaction on the father’s performance--expected and actual; 3) The Partner Support for Father Involvement (8-item) assessed support for paternal roles—esteem support and availability; 4) Parenting Alliance Inventory Index of Marital Satisfaction (25-item) measured degree, severity, and magnitude of a problem in a partner relationship; 5) Parenting Self-Efficacy Subscale (7-item) explored the perceived fathering abilities to deal with parenting demands.
Completed surveys were recorded from 77 fathers and 56 mothers. Independent sample t-tests showed no significant gender differences on the overall score on each instrument. Men and women did not differ on their answers related to partner alliance (p=.972), idealized (p=.149) and reported (p=.234) fathering participation, partner support for father involvement (p=.938), marital satisfaction (p=.240), and fathering self efficacy (p=.238).
While no significant gender differences on the overall score, differences were discovered in two of its nine subscales of Inventory of Father Involvement. Men scored significantly lower than women on praise and affection (17.03 vs. 17.28, t(97.02)=2.55, p=.012) (Cohen’s d= .35) but higher than women on attentiveness (17.58 vs. 16.63, t(94.81)=2.53, p=.013) (Cohen’s d=.35). Out of nine subscales measuring marital satisfaction, men and women differed on one subscale. Women reported a greater level of satisfaction (M=16.13) toward their partner’s support for the child’s talents and concerns than men did (M=15.07) (t(102)=2.42, p=.017) (Cohen’s d=.34).
Conclusion and Implications
Data showed that these five instruments can be used with both parents. However, it is important to note that the self-perceived parenting expectations must be studied before measuring actual fathering participation. Results from these instruments provided a two-step approach to measure how idealized responsible fatherhood may contribute to actual fathering participation: 1) recognizing similarities in fathering role expectations and satisfaction between both genders, and 2) focusing on family-centered practice in actually engaging fathers from both parents’ experiences. Social workers can focus on the use of fathers’ and mothers’ perceptions and compare both idealized and actual behaviors from both genders’ perspectives to promote responsible fatherhood. A practice framework will be presented in this presentation to demonstrate how “fathering” can be addressed as a clinical process – provided by fathers, encouraged by mothers, and supported by other fathering figures.