Abstract: Unmarried Black Mothers and Fathers: A Pilot Study of a Parenting Intervention (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Unmarried Black Mothers and Fathers: A Pilot Study of a Parenting Intervention

Friday, January 18, 2019: 6:45 PM
Continental Parlor 7, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Aurora Jackson, PhD, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Kathleen Preston, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Fullerton
Background and Purpose: This study pilot tested the efficacy of a psychoeducation group intervention for black unmarried mothers and the nonresident biological fathers of their 3-year-old focal children. Informed by social cognitive theory, the initial goal was to determine whether the mothers could persuade the focal children’s fathers to participate together with them in a 3-month intervention focused on supportive co-parenting and whether the intervention might be associated with improvements in the mothers’ perceived self-efficacy and feelings of mastery vis-à-vis gaining access to helpful social support. While our concern was with outcomes for mothers in particular because for black children, more than half are being raised in a family headed by a single-parent mother, there is evidence that nonresident black fathers’ contacts with their children can serve a buffering or protective function with respect to well-being outcomes for both single mothers and their young children.

Consistent with social cognitive theory, self-efficacy beliefs are amenable to change and we hypothesized that more efficacious mothers might invest more time and effort to encouraging nonresident fathers to stay involved with their children even if and when the romantic relationship ends, as many of these relationships do before the children reach elementary school age. We expected, as well, that more efficacious fathers might be more likely to stay involved with their young children over the preschool years when their involvement typically wanes.

Method: We carried out a randomized controlled trial with 19 low-income, unmarried, black mothers and the nonresident biological fathers of their 3-year-old focal children, recruited through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services; 9 couples were assigned randomly to the experimental condition (a 12-session co-parenting intervention); 10, to the control condition (a 1-session information session on the importance of fathers to their children’s well-being and development). At baseline, the entire sample completed a questionnaire that assessed parenting practices, self-efficacy, and supportive resources. The couples were re-interviewed a year after baseline (time 2); we lost only one couple.

Results: Results of an independent-measures t test revealed no significant difference between the two groups of mothers on self-efficacy scores before the intervention at time 1; fathers in the experimental group reported higher levels of self-efficacy to begin with (unexpectedly). As expected, change in self-efficacy scores before and after the intervention was greater for mothers in the experimental condition based on results of a between-within subjects analysis of variance test. There was an interaction between time and experimental condition, indicating that the change in feelings of self-efficacy partly depended on the experimental condition. However, fathers in the sample experienced a decrease in self-efficacy from time 1 to time 2, regardless of group assignment.

Conclusion: We have no ready explanation for the latter finding and a more nuanced analysis will be needed to understand the processes involved if these results are valid and not random measurement error.   Nevertheless, we have shown that nonresident black fathers will participate in intervention efforts focused on co-parenting. This has important implications for work with these families.