"The man as he converses is the lover; silent, he is the husband." ~ Honore de Balzac

Sunday

The Role of Father Involvement in Children’s Lives

The evolution of fatherhood research offers interesting insights into academics’ assumptions about how fathers contribute to their children’s well-being. These assumptions influence research agendas and, while sometimes being helpful, can also lead to misunderstanding fathers and their contributions. For instance, the scholarly study of fathers began with the Second World War when researchers made the assumption that father absence would lead young boys to become effeminate (Bach, 1946; McCord, McCord, & Thurber, 1962) or homosexual (see Pleck, 2007), with much of this research drawing on Freudian theory (Burton & Whiting, 1961). During this time and through much of the 1970s, aside from examining their presence or absence, fathers were not included in “parenting” research, which was primarily the study of the mother’s influence.

Then, in the 1980s, feminist thought began to influence the research field, and the assumptions about the father’s role expanded to include multiple aspects of parenting (see Lamb, 2000). Scholars began to categorize general “types” of father involvement (e.g., engagement, responsibility, accessibility) and study how these types influenced children (Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, & Levine, 1985, 1987). From this research grew a wealth of information on how a father’s involvement contributed to his children’s development (Lamb, 2010). Bolstered by these findings, fatherhood researchers increasingly argued that when studying child development, it was critical to study the father’s role.

At the same time, social movements arose that began to call into question two assumptions often underlying fatherhood research: 1) that what fathers do as parents is different from what mothers do and 2) that father involvement is essential for child well-being. Regarding the first assumption, it is certainly true that there is much overlap in what fathers and mothers do. Both mothers and fathers care for their children, express love, monitor, discipline, play, teach, etc. In fact, it is difficult to name a category of parenting tasks that fathers and mothers cannot both do. Jay Fagan and colleagues (Fagan, Day, Lamb, & Cabrera, 2014) found little research justification that “mothering” and “fathering” were different. They therefore conclude that there is justification for collapsing the terms “mothering” and “fathering” into “parenting.”

Regarding the second assumption about “essentiality,” Louise Silverstein and Carl Auerbach (1999) rightly challenged the notion that every child requires a father in order to successfully develop. Indeed, there are numerous examples of people who succeeded without being raised by a father. Barack Obama became President of the United States and Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete in history, and both were raised primarily without a father.



While these two critiques are important and technically true, their usefulness is limited. Errors arise when these critiques are extended to assume that distinguishing between father and mother involvement is never necessary or that there are no children for whom father involvement is essential. These assumptions paint parenting in “broad strokes” and miss distinctions critical to understanding fathers. When “parenting” is defined broadly enough to apply equally to mothers and fathers across all times and places, the term becomes of little use.

One piece of evidence for this caution emerged in some recent research where we examined whether adolescents and parents had the same conceptual view of mother and father involvement (Dyer, in press; Dyer & Robbins, in preparation). We examined data from three separate datasets where mothers, fathers, and children in the U.S. filled out the same questions about the involvement of both the mother and father. Using the statistical method of measurement equivalence, we were able to explore whether individuals conceive of mother and father involvement in the same way.

Even after controlling for the number of hours parents worked, it was clear that both adolescents and parents conceptualize mother and father involvement differently. For example, we found that when adolescents think about a father “caring for” them and a mother “caring for” them, they are thinking about two conceptually different ideas of “caring.” Based on these findings, if researchers were to maintain a gender-neutral view of parenting, not only would they miss important conceptual distinctions, but the statistical models would be mis-specified and statistical estimates would be incorrect.


The role of father involvement in children’s lives is also obscured by the lack of multicultural research and the implicit assumption that findings about fathers in one place apply to fathers everywhere. Several decades after research on fatherhood began in earnest, it still suffers from Western bias and “U.S.-centrism” (Shwalb, Shwalb, & Lamb, 2013). In particular, as Ramadan Ahmed (2013) notes, there is a dearth of studies on fatherhood based in the “Arab World.” He found Egypt had the most research on fathers (67 studies) of any country in that region, then Saudi Arabia (11 studies), followed by Kuwait (5 studies). Even fewer studies on fatherhood, and sometimes no studies at all, exist for other countries in the Arab World. Further, the meager amount of fatherhood research on the Arab World that does exist is largely inaccessible to Western scholars. Eighty percent of the research Ahmed (2013) cites is in Arabic.

The majority of our fatherhood theory is built on the hundreds (even thousands) of studies on U.S. fathers. Given the measurement equivalence results with U.S. fathers and the lack of information on cultures whose gender roles are more distinct than in U.S. culture, we should not conclude that just because there is substantial overlap between mothers’ and fathers’ roles in Western countries, that there are no meaningful differences between the two.

In addition, researchers must acknowledge political influences on research. Silverstein and Auerbach (1999) describe their research agenda as focused on ensuring particular political outcomes. When research agendas are focused on such place- and time-bound issues, they often fail to address a much wider array of issues and draw conclusions that are far too broad.Even aside from these issues, conducting research on fathers is difficult (Mitchell et al., 2007) and without great care, it is easy to overlook significant aspects of fatherhood. Fathers are often less willing than mothers to participate in research, or have schedules that make it difficult for them to participate, or do not live with their children. Moreover, in some cultures, it is highly improper to ask a father about his young children. Nandita Chaudhary (2013), who studies fathers in India, provides an example of a father who, when asked a question about his young children, was quite taken aback. When he was able to “gather his wits,” he deflected the question. For reasons such as these, researchers often simply interview mothers about fathers, missing the fathers’ own voices. However, in order to understand them and their impact on kids, one must be willing to look closely at fathers, rather than examine them in the abstract.

Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson’s (2013) study of inner-city fathers provides a good illustration of the need to study fathers closely. They noted that many of the traditional, broad-stroke assumptions about these men were wrong. Yet it took months of research and hundreds of interviews for them to understand these fathers.

Questions about overlaps in mothering and fathering and the role fathers play in development are unavoidably difficult to answer, and can only be answered with much more scholarly work of similar scope. Despite its development over the past half century, fatherhood research is likely still in its infancy, and we should keep an open mind about mother/father differences as well as about fathers’ contributions.

W. Justin Dyer is an Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University teaching family and statistics courses. His research focuses on the contribution of fathers to their children’s well-being, including incarcerated fathers and fathers of children with disabilities.

References
Ahmed, R. A. (2013). The father’s role in the Arab world. In D. W. Shwalb, B. J. Shwalb, & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Fathers in cultural context (pp. 122-147). New York: Routledge.
Bach, G. R. (1946). Father-fantasies and father-typing in father-separated children.Child Development, 17(1/2), 63-80. doi:10.2307/3181742
Burton, R. V., & Whiting, J. W. M. (1961). The absent father and cross-sex identity.Merrill-Palmer Quarterly of Behavior and Development, 7(2), 85-95. doi:10.2307/23082531
Chaudhary, N. (2013). The father’s role in the Indian family: A story that must be told. In D. W. Shwalb, B. J. Shwalb, & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Fathers in cultural context (pp. 68-94). New York: Routledge.
Dyer, W. J. (in press). The vital role of measurement equivalence in family research.Journal of Family Theory & Review.
Dyer, W. J., & Robbins, N. (in preparation). Is fathering and mothering the same construct?
Edin, K., & Nelson, T. J. (2013). Doing the best I can: Fatherhood in the inner city. Berkeley: CA: University of California Press.
Fagan, J., Day, R., Lamb, M. E., & Cabrera, N. J. (2014). Should researchers conceptualize differently the dimensions of parenting for fathers and mothers?Journal of Family Theory & Review, 6(4), 390-405.
Lamb, M. E. (2000). The history of research on father involvement: An overview.Marriage and Family Review, 29(2/3), 23-42.
Lamb, M. E. (2010). How do fathers influence children’s development: Let me count the ways. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (5 ed., pp. 1-26). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Lamb, M. E., Pleck, J. H., Charnov, E. L., & Levine, J. A. (1985). Paternal behavior in humans. American Zoologist, 25, 883-894.
Lamb, M. E., Pleck, J. H., Charnov, E. L., & Levine, J. A. (1987). A biosocial perspective on paternal behavior and involvement. In J. B. Lancaster, J. Altman, & A. Rossi (Eds.),Parenting across the lifespan: Biosocial perspectives (pp. 11-42). New York: Academic Press.
McCord, J., McCord, W., & Thurber, E. (1962). Some effects of paternal absence on male children. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 64(5), 361-369. doi:10.1037/h0045305
Mitchell, S. J., See, H. M., Tarkow, A., Cabrera, N., McFadden, K. E., & Shannon, J. D. (2007). Conducting studies with fathers: Challenges and opportunities. Applied Developmental Science, 11(4), 239.
Shwalb, D. W., Shwalb, B. J., & Lamb, M. E. (2013). Final thoughts, comparisons, and conclusions. In D. W. Shwalb, B. J. Shwalb, & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Fathers in cultural context (pp. 385-399). New York: Routledge.
Silverstein, L. B., & Auerbach, C. F. (1999). Deconstructing the essential father.American Psychologist, 54(6), 397-407. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.54.6.397

A FATHER-DAUGHTER DANCE

Thank you so much Ms Patton!! We wish you could have this presentation without the element/theme that involves Dads in prison.

WHY IS THIS A CRITICAL ISSUE?


I am a Father

By Darby Jay @ Target Children Parents Relatives Society
"I am a father...Not a deadbeat...Not a coward...Not a man that runs away from being a father, or a deserter of my own flesh and blood. Not a sperm donor or a court appointed ATM, but a Father in the purest form of the word. And while choosy “Moms choose Jif”; I sit, at 3:05 am holding the hot hands of a sick 7 year old princess. But that’s my job. Because...I am a Father.
I would speak to my daughter while she was in utero. She would respond with little kicks and from the womb...we interacted, and hadn’t even seen each other yet. When you immediately accept that, even before your child takes its first breath, you are already a Father; you immediately begin to bond with your child. (I am a Father)
The Family Law Court System as a whole, and it’s Judges, destroy the lives of children and in turn entire families by violating a Father’s right to "Due Process" and "Equal Protection" under the law. But we’ve known that for decades. Anyone that thinks or believes that there is "Due Process" for Fathers in the Family Law Court System should be placed in a padded room and heavily sedated. Why is it ok for Fathers to miss their children? Why is it ok for a Father to be sick and wrapped in worry? Why is it permissible for “Non Custodial” parents to start legal proceedings at an immediate disadvantage? Why is there no legislation in place to safeguard Fathers that are being swept in amid the men that make us all look bad? We are judged before the first hearing? It physically hurts on days (that) I don’t have my daughter with me. “DEPRESSION HURTS!” as the commercial for anti-depressants says...right? (It hurts because...I am a Father.)
Ask yourself, what parent wouldn’t be stressed sleepless concerned about their child? Therefore forcing time away from a parent and child would reasonably cause a great deal of stress and worry.. .to truly say the least. But the Family Law Court (and) its Judges are far from reasonable. Now, just imagine that you’re sitting at your desk at work, and two armed Sheriffs approach the receptionist’s desk, then your intercom buzzes, and you are then summoned to the front desk The Sheriff asks you for your name. And then politely informs you that you have been served with child support papers. And that’s just the beginning. Keep in mind that you are the same father that went through the entire pregnancy, CPR classes, ultrasounds, the Birth...ya know Dad stuff. For the record, (a sidebar really); Any man that has stood side by side, each day and night for nine months with a hormonal, morning, noon and night vomiting, habitual mood swinger knows that Fathers don’t exactly have it easy during a nine month pregnancy either. Weather you are an amazing Father, or a deadbeat looser, Family Law Court will filter your life through Hell all the same. I am a Father.
With no criminal record, never been arrested, no history of violence, domestic or other; At what point did I ask to be Non-Custodial.? There is nothing “Non-Custodial” about me! I have never needed a Court's Order to care for my Daughter. Since when have I not been a Father? I clinch my fist and grit my teeth while, the very system set in place to protect our families not only fatally fails, but spits in my face and violates my rights." (I AM A FATHER!)
"There is no system ever devised by mankind that is guaranteed to rip husband and wife or father, mother and child apart so bitterly than our present Family Court System." -Judge Brian Lindsay Retired Supreme Court Judge, New York, New York
"What Social Services is good at is removing "Power" from people. When this is accomplished, then there go choices." -Mr. Sharles Johnson
2 comments

Jason Montour
Jason Montour  -- i feel the same way and even if a woman takes that child from you puts you down in front of her than you realize your still a father but now your a father fighting for the rights of your childs mind and i used to put earphones on the belly and she would respond she used to yell for me when i came home from work i'm going to keep fighting for my baby till my baby is 18
Dragan Rivas
Dragan Rivas  -- It's a real sense of fatherly love for their child and if it is still a fetus in the womb of its mother. Of course, an important factor is the child that is born to a feeling of love and protection from their parents. child is God's blessing ii symbol of marital homes!

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"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." (Tecumseh).

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