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.