Whereas fatherhood studies frequently rely on homogeneous samples of predominantly Caucasian, married men of higher socio-economic status, the first two papers use data collected from a nationally representative sample of young men. The first paper addresses an important knowledge gap by examining young men’s knowledge of typical infant development, factors associated with men’s knowledge, and whether knowledge is associated with risk for child maltreatment. Fathers knew significantly more than non-fathers, but overall young men answered only about half of the questions about typical development correctly, suggesting the importance of providing anticipatory guidance to expectant and new fathers about developmentally appropriate expectations for infants. The second paper examines the prevalence of paternal presence at prenatal ultrasounds and factors associated with paternal presence. Overall, 88% of fathers reported being present at a prenatal ultrasound for their youngest child, while fathers were less likely to report presence at ultrasound if they were unmarried or had lower educational attainment. Widespread presence of fathers at ultrasound suggests that ultrasound appointments present an ideal opportunity for social workers to provide information and support and engage fathers in any needed services.
The third paper examines risk and resilience factors that contribute to prenatal bonding and child abuse potential in a sample of parents exposed to environmental adversity, and reveals that different factors may be associated with positive prenatal bonding in fathers versus mothers. Results indicate that social workers should attend to fathers’ histories of child maltreatment as a factor that may inhibit paternal bonding. The fourth paper uses structural equation modeling to assess the effect of prenatal involvement on later father involvement, using multiple indicators of involvement. This enriched approach to examining the long-term effects of prenatal involvement yields findings that prenatal involvement does have enduring effects, but the impact of prenatal involvement may weaken over time. Consequently, programs that focus on prenatal father involvement may be able to enhance family outcomes through longer-term follow-up.
There is little available evidence to guide social work practice with men. Though becoming a father is a major transition for men, with implications for motivations for change, this knowledge gap extends to the period surrounding the birth of a child. This symposium presents essential, empirical evidence to inform strategies and interventions to improve men’s engagement in services around the birth of their child, and to enhance outcomes for fathers and families.