Method: This study utilized a hermeneutic phenomenological mode of inquiry to capture the essence of the lived experiences of participants whom have had enduring close relationships with their biological fathers. Hermeneutic phenomenology focuses on the descriptions of what and how people experience a phenomenon (i.e. having an involved father), to capture the essence of the experience (Patton, 2002). Participant criteria included any adult over the age of 18 who identified as having had a close relationship with an involved biological father from birth. Participants (N = 10) were purposely chosen because they the fit the above criteria and were of professions within and outside of the profession of social work. An interview guide was developed and utilized during semi-structured interviews. Interviews took place in the participants’ homes, via telephone, and via Skype, and were 60-90 minutes in duration.
Results:Five themes of father involvement emerged from the interviews: (a) the present father is devoted to his family despite life’s demands, (b)fathers’ primary task is to prepare his children for the “real world”, (c) fathers are moral guides, instrumental in developing children’s value systems, (d) father-child relationships are challenging, unique, and emotionally driven, and (e) involved fathers provide children with an invaluable sense of safety and security. Results suggested that the devotion of the participants’ fathers lead to the successes the participants experienced in their adult lives. Their fathers molded their values and morals and prepared them for the demands of adulthood.
Conclusions and Implications: Five themes of father involvement were discovered and reflected that father-child relationships are intense, emotional, and significant. As with any relationship, father-child relationships contained positive and negative aspects, suggesting that thinking about fatherhood in a dichotomous, positive or negative, way is obsolete and inappropriate. Instead father involvement should be understood as a complex construct containing many layers. Future research should continue to include in-depth dialogue with people of diverse backgrounds to deepen our understanding of how fathers and children conceptualize father involvement to gain a deeper understanding of the essential mechanisms that are responsible for both negative and positive child development. This presentation will also discuss how community engaged research can inform practice within communities of varying social and cultural ideals.