Methods: Self-report survey data were collected from 51 urban-dwelling expectant (3rd trimester) fathers exposed to contextual adversity- including poverty and violence, enrolled in a larger study on risk and protective factors in expectant parents. Fathers’ beliefs about fathering were assessed using the Role of the Father Questionnaire (Palkovitz, 1984). Using OLS linear regression we examined the influence of fathers’ beliefs about sex role equality (Sex Role Egalitarianism Scale), fathers’ child maltreatment history (Childhood Trauma Questionnaire), fathers’ attachment avoidance (Experiences in Close Relationships Scale-R), and fathers’ relationships with the mother of their child (Dyadic Adjustment Scale-R) on fathers’ belief in the importance of fathering.
Results: The overall model significantly (F(4, 37)=8.82, p<.001) predicted 52% of the variance in fathers’ beliefs about the importance of fathering on the health and development of their infant. Sex role beliefs (β=.25, p<.01) were positively associated, as more egalitarian sex-role views were associated with greater importance placed on the role of the father. History of child maltreatment (β=-.17, p<.05) was negatively associated, as greater exposure to child maltreatment was associated with lower beliefs in the importance of fathers.
Conclusion: Prior work has established the influence of a father’s beliefs about the importance of early fathering on his prenatal bonding with his infant and with later parenting behaviors. This study suggests that fathers who adhere to more stereotypical sex roles and who have experienced maltreatment in their own histories are less likely to believe that early fathering is important in the lives of young children. Social work interventions that aim to increase father involvement in early child rearing should account for paternal histories of maltreatment in assessment and treatment protocols. Resolution of issues related to prior maltreatment may help fathers imagine a different fathering role with their own children. Co-parenting interventions aimed at increasing paternal involvement could target stereotypical sex role beliefs that may be barriers to father involvement.