There is paucity of research focusing on the relationship between children and youth in out-of-home settings and their biological fathers. Most of the literature on children in out-of-home care focuses on the child-mother relationship, or on the child’s relationship with his or her parents in general. The current study examines the context in which, according to the reports of young people in Israeli residential care settings designed for youth from underprivileged backgrounds, the relationship between father support and youth emotional and behavioral adjustment is embedded. Specifically, it adds to the literature by examining the ways in which peer victimization and gender moderate the relationship between father support and youth adjustment.
The study is based on a cluster random sample of 1,409 youth, aged 13 to 20, in Israeli educational RCSs for youth from underprivileged backgrounds, who completed a structured questionnaire in their residential care settings, using an adaptation of the Social Support Network Questionnaire (SSNQ; Gee & Rhodes, 2007), designed to measure the delivery of various basic types of father support, including emotional support, tangible assistance, cognitive guidance, and social participation. Multivariate regression models with a moderation effect between peer victimization, gender, and father support in predicting adolescent emotional and behavioral adjustment difficulties were used using PROCESS analysis (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) via SPSS.
The findings show that, on average, fathers are highly involved in these young people’s lives. They also show that male adolescents, adolescents whose parents are married, Israeli-born adolescents, and those whose fathers have higher education levels have higher levels of father support. Father support is negatively associated with adjustment difficulties. A significant interaction was found between peer victimization, father support and gender in predicting adjustment difficulties. Among boys who had experienced peer victimization at any point during their lives, the findings show a significant negative association between father support and adjustment difficulties. For boys who had never experienced peer victimization, the association was statistically insignificant. For girls, the picture revealed is different; for those who had experienced peer victimization, the level of father support was insignificantly linked with adjustment difficulties. For girls who had never experienced peer victimization, there was a significant association between increased father support and reduced adjustment difficulties.
Conclusions and Implications:
The findings shed light on ways in which father support is beneficial to young people in residential care. The current study identified specific groups of adolescents in educational RCSs at risk for lower levels of paternal support, such as children whose parents are divorced. Specific programs should be designed for such groups in order to enhance the paternal support they receive. The main findings of the study indicate the need to help fathers acquire the necessary tools and skills that will in turn better enable them to support their children, especially their daughters, in times of distress.