Interventions With Fathers: Adaptations, Technologies, and Strategies
Mounting research continues to reaffirm the contribution of fathers and fathering to child and family well-being as well as the potential for father-related factors to moderate parenting intervention outcomes. Unfortunately, fathers continue to be neglected in child and family interventions and research. Although studies have described the barriers that contribute to the low levels of male 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 four papers describing results from parenting intervention development research designed to empirically examine strategies to increase the engagement of fathers. These interventions target key father and family outcomes including: fathers’ parenting skills, co-parenting, fathers’ support of positive mothering, mothers’ support of positive fathering, and reduction of father-related risk factors that contribute to child behavioral problems and child maltreatment. The four papers included in this symposium are at the forefront of research on the engagement of fathers in parenting interventions.
The four papers included in this symposium describe parenting intervention development for two important and underserved populations of fathers: military fathers and low-income racial/ethnic minority fathers. The first paper describes the unique challenges experienced by military fathers and their perspectives on parenting needs and motivations to inform interventions using focus group data. The second paper is also focused on military fathers. It provides an overview of the development of innovative parenting education technology that was informed and tested by fathers. The third paper is describes the development and empirical testing of strategies to engage African American fathers in an adapted evidence-based parent training program. Using experimental pilot study data, outcomes focused on changes in parenting behaviors of fathers are presented. The fourth paper describes a father involvement enhancement intervention that is designed to engage fathers in home visiting services. Intervention outcomes based on a quasi-experimental study design are presented including novel audio technology tool that captures parent-child interactions in the home.
Common themes emerge across the studies including fathers’ motivations to engage in and benefit from parenting interventions, the impact of service systems on engagement of fathers in child and family services, creative methods for serving fathers and measuring fathering, as well as issues 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 includes the presentation of data collected directly from fathers, which has been a limitation of many prior studies. Other contributions include the examination of a variety of child and family service system 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 beyond descriptions of barriers to fathers’ engagement in parenting interventions and often repeated, but rarely tested engagement and adaptation strategies. The promising methodologies and interventions presented here will guide future research and intervention development in the field.