Abstract: A Confirmatory Analysis of Non-Resident Father Involvement Among Primarily Low-Income and Racially/Ethnically Diverse Fathers (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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318P A Confirmatory Analysis of Non-Resident Father Involvement Among Primarily Low-Income and Racially/Ethnically Diverse Fathers

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jaimie O'Gara, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background/Purpose: Non-resident fathers, who are more likely to be of color and live in poverty, receive less attention in the literature relative to resident fathers. Historically, studies of father involvement (FI) have focused on limited aspects of FI such as frequency of contact (Teel et al., 2016). Frequency measures tend to favor resident fathers, who by virtue of their resident status, have more access to their children. Due to such narrow conceptualizations of FI, the quality of father-child interactions have been understudied (Charles et al., 2018). Further, the majority of extant fathering studies have relied on mothers’ reports of FI which is concerning given the discrepancies found between mother and father reports (Charles et al., 2018). This study addresses these research gaps and gives voice to a sample of primarily low-income, racially/ethnically diverse fathers. Using data from a large, national sample, I identified the ways in which non-resident fathers were involved with their children in an attempt to develop more inclusive measures of FI.

Method: Data was drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS). Inclusion criteria included families who had a non-resident father at the Year-9 follow-up wave (N = 1,267). On average, fathers were 31 years old and identified as black (65.9%), Latino (19.7%), white (11.5%), and “other” race (2.7%).

First, I conducted a first order confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) with three FI factors: father-child closeness (child report), father direct engagement (father report), father direct engagement (mother report). The factor indicators come from individual survey items that were grouped together in the FFCWS surveys. Following successful completion of the first order CFA, I estimated the second order CFA, which hypothesized that the covariation of the first order factors was fully explained by non-resident FI. The final, second-order CFA model represents how non-resident fathers are involved with the focal child (Year-9).

Results: Results of the first and second order confirmatory factory analysis indicated that the models fit the data, and that father-child closeness and direct engagement were viable measures of non-resident father involvement. Non-resident FI accounted for 66% of the variance in father-child closeness, 81% in father-reported father direct engagement, and 70% in mother-reported father direct engagement.

Conclusions and implications: The results provided evidence that fathering measures that target relationship quality, in addition to measures of frequency are important domains of FI, specifically for non-resident fathers. Non-resident fathers have been largely left out of large national, and scholars have found that children who have fathers absent from the home are at increased risk of developmental issues (Reichman, 2001). Therefore, it was important to conduct research that focuses on this understudied population, as the results from this study can be used to inform future measures of FI. Improved FI measures allow researchers to better understand non-resident fathers which enhances knowledge regarding their role in child wellbeing.