Fathers, including low-income and nonresident fathers, play a central role in their children's development. There is broad agreement that positive father involvement is associated with better child outcomes beginning in the prenatal period and extending across the lifecourse. However, over the last several decades, social policies, such as mass incarceration, and economic changes, such as loss of manufacturing jobs, have made it increasingly more difficult for low-income fathers to maintain stable involvement with their children, despite clear evidence of their desire to do so.
This roundtable brings together a diverse group of scholars from different institutions, academic ranks, and ethnic backgrounds who are engaged in research around father involvement from a variety of perspectives to discuss the role of fathers in reducing inequality in child outcomes.
First, we will briefly describe the state of the research with regard to whether and how low-income fathers can improve child well-being. Second, we will discuss what we have learned about the role of policies in promoting or inhibiting father involvement, including child support policies, criminal justice policies, and economic policies. Next, we will focus on what we have learned about individual-level interventions to increase father involvement and improve the quality of fathers' interactions with their children, particularly for children at the earliest stages of development. Then, we will consider these questions from a comparative perspective, bringing in findings from studies of these issues in Latin America. Finally, we will discuss the role of neighborhoods and whether father involvement could be particularly salient for children growing up in high poverty areas.
This roundtable will stimulate a rich discussion of how father involvement might reduce SES-based inequalities in child well-being and the roles of policies, programs, and services in supporting or impeding father involvement across US and international contexts.
Our goal is to encourage more scholars to engage in research in this area and to promote collaborations among scholars from different institutions and across differing theoretical and methodological perspectives. There is pressing need for social work research to expand understanding of the barriers to father involvement faced by low-income men in order to inform policy and practice aimed at reducing those barriers.