Parenting in Context: Fathering and Mothering in Diverse Families

Saturday, January 17, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Balconies I, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Gender
Symposium Organizer:
Jennifer L. Bellamy, PhD, University of Denver
Aaron Banman, MSW, University of Chicago
Purpose: A growing body of research demonstrates that positive fathering, like positive mothering, supports positive developmental outcomes and attenuates risk for children. However, social work lacks research and interventions that well attend to the needs of low-income fathers generally, and address both mothering and fathering in the context of diverse family structures and communities. This symposium includes three papers that address the unique strengths, challenges, and experiences that low-income fathers and mothers face in parenting families across diverse family structures. This line of work has the potential to inform the next generation of family support interventions that better reflect the diverse families served by social workers.

Methods: The papers in the proposed symposium include methodological improvements in the field. All three of the of the studies engage subgroups of families that are not well represented in existing research but represent many families served by social workers. These include expectant parents, low-income fathers in highly stressed urban neighborhoods, and families with step parents. Two of the studies use qualitative methods. These methods are particularly critical as they reflect the perspectives of these underrepresented families and have the potential to inform more inclusive intervention approaches and theory development as the field advances. Another methodological advancement represented in this symposium is the attention to the broader family context of families that include multiple generations as well as the perspectives of mothers and fathers. Although the importance of mother-father relationships has long been acknowledged in parenting research, rarely are the perspectives of both parents included, and the contributions of extended family members and complex parenting structures have been even less well-studied.

Results: The results of the studies included in this symposium describe fathers and mothers in different family and community contexts who are also in different “places” along the path of their parenting careers. The findings highlight how the experiences of these parents vary by marital and residential status, entrée into parenting, and community stress. The mothers and fathers represented in these studies demonstrate potential to contribute to family and child well-being through their commitment to involvement with their children, connection to co-parents (including partners and grandparents and extended family), and strengths through family transitions. However, parents also face challenges in their family relationships and communities which have an impact on their children, as well as their own well-being.

Implications: Although families in the US today are highly diverse, much of the existing parenting research has focused mothers alone. Rarely have studies included reports from multiple parents and extended family in diverse communities. These papers demonstrate that parenting is impacted family relationships and community level factors, and that the service needs of parents likely vary across these dimensions and over time as fathers and mothers enter into, and progress through their parenting careers. A failure to attend to these service needs likely undercuts the effectiveness of existing interventions. These studies provide critical insights needed to inform the development of effective family support services that better meet the needs of all parents.

* noted as presenting author
Fathering in an Urban Setting: A Qualitative Analysis of Interviews with Detroit Fathers Preparing to Parent a New Baby
Carolyn J. Dayton, PhD, Wayne State University; Tova Walsh, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Erika Bocknek, Wayne State University; Laurel Hicks, MSW, Wayne State University; Maria Muzik, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Katherine L. Rosenblum, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
The Influence of Non-Residential Father Relationships on Stepfamily Experiences
Kevin Shafer, PhD, Brigham Young University; Todd M. Jensen, MSW, LCSWA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Douglas Wendt, BS, Brigham Young University
Parents Under Stress: Perspectives on Economic Barriers and Solutions to Self-Sufficiency
Anne C. Jones, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Chicago
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