Session: Understanding Early Father Involvement (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

53 Understanding Early Father Involvement

Friday, January 17, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Independence BR A, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Gender (G)
Symposium Organizer:
Jennifer Bellamy, PhD, University of Denver
Fathers, including young, low-income, and unmarried fathers, play a central role in the development of their young children. Positive father involvement is associated with positive social, emotional, and cognitive outcomes for children, and it is protective when families experience risks that may compromise mothers' parenting, such as maternal depression. Father involvement begins prior to birth, and involvement during pregnancy and in the child's early years can set the stage for the quality of involvement over the long term. Although the potential benefits of early father involvement are clear, research is needed to better understand the factors that explain the nature and quality of fathering. Parenting studies are often exclusively focused on mothers and data on father involvement often have methodological limitations such as an over-reliance on mother reports. All four papers in this symposium help address gaps in the father involvement literature by collecting data from fathers themselves, sampling diverse fathers, and examining previously under-studied processes, relationships and constructs as they relate to early father involvement.

The first paper examines the earliest days of fathering. Using qualitative data from semi-structured interviews of expectant fathers, this study explores the influence of fathers' trauma experiences as they transition into a parenting role. Trauma has become an important construct for understanding the quality of parenting, however very few studies have explored trauma among fathers. This study suggests that prior trauma shapes men's experiences in pregnancy, expectations of themselves as parents, and fears for their future child. In the second paper, also focused on fathers during pregnancy, fathers' self-reported survey data are used to examine the factors associated with fathers' beliefs about the importance of fathering. Fathers' own sense of their contribution to child well-being is an important factor in father involvement, but how and why this varies among parenting men is not well understood. In this study, fathers' sex role beliefs, their childhood exposure to maltreatment and sensitive parental care, and the quality of their relationship with their infants' mother influenced their beliefs in the importance of fathering for their infant's health and development. The third paper examines the relationship between unintended pregnancy and father involvement with their three-year-old children. The longitudinal data used in this study are unique given data are collected from both mothers and fathers, and the findings indicate that pregnancy intentions, and agreement about intentions between parents, are associated with father but not mother involvement. The mother-father relationship has been consistently identified as an important factor in shaping father involvement, but very few studies have looked at elements of this relationship starting in pregnancy. The final paper uses data from the same longitudinal study, this time examining the relationship between co-parenting and father involvement over time. Similarly, the co-parenting relationship is associated more strongly with father involvement than mother involvement.

The four papers in this symposium will advance understanding of factors that facilitate and impede early father involvement, informing social work efforts to support the caring, involved presence of fathers in the lives of their young children.

* noted as presenting author
Ghosts in the Ultrasound: Paternal Trauma and the Transition to Fatherhood
Richard Tolman, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Tova Walsh, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Expectant Fathers' Early Fathering Beliefs: The Influence of Egalitarian Sex Role Beliefs and Maltreatment History
Carolyn Dayton, PhD, Wayne State University; Suzanne Brown, PhD, Wayne State University; Laurel Hicks, MSW, Wayne State University; Jessica Goletz, BA, Wayne State University; Carla Barron, MSW, Wayne State University
Mothers' and Fathers' Pregnancy Intentions and Father Involvement at 36 Months
Heather Knauer, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Katie Massey, University of Denver; Shawna Lee, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Inna Altschul, PhD, University of Denver
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