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Abstract

This study evaluated the effectiveness of a fatherhood intervention designed to improve the fathering attitudes and behaviors of fathers who are low income from metropolitan and rural communities in Louisiana. The study was successful in recruiting a sample of predominantly African American fathers (N = 57) and retaining the participants over time. An adequate number of fathers achieved the intervention goals to obtain employment, increase their earnings, and complete educational (i.e., Graduate Equivalency Diploma [GED]) training. In addition, after having completed the program, there was a statistically significant improvement in fathers’ relationship with the mothers of their children. Additionally, there were increases in fathers’ positive attitudes about being a father, perceived closeness with their children, amount of contact with their children, and satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their children; however, none of these differences were statistically significant. Most of the fathers gave favorable reports regarding the fatherhood program’s goals and delivery.
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Journal of Family Social Work
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Fathering attitudes and behaviors among low-
income fathers
Juan J. Barthelemy & Tanya M. Coakley
To cite this article: Juan J. Barthelemy & Tanya M. Coakley (2017): Fathering
attitudes and behaviors among low-income fathers, Journal of Family Social Work, DOI:
10.1080/10522158.2017.1302379
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10522158.2017.1302379
Published online: 12 May 2017.
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Fathering attitudes and behaviors among low-income fathers
Juan J. Barthelemy
a
and Tanya M. Coakley
b
a
School of Social Work, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;
b
Department of Social
Work, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
ABSTRACT
This study evaluated the effectiveness of a fatherhood inter-
vention designed to improve the fathering attitudes and beha-
viors of fathers who are low income from metropolitan and
rural communities in Louisiana. The study was successful in
recruiting a sample of predominantly African American fathers
(N= 57) and retaining the participants over time. An adequate
number of fathers achieved the intervention goals to obtain
employment, increase their earnings, and complete educa-
tional (i.e., Graduate Equivalency Diploma [GED]) training. In
addition, after having completed the program, there was a
statistically significant improvement in fathersrelationship
with the mothers of their children. Additionally, there were
increases in fatherspositive attitudes about being a father,
perceived closeness with their children, amount of contact
with their children, and satisfaction with the amount of time
spent with their children; however, none of these differences
were statistically significant. Most of the fathers gave favorable
reports regarding the fatherhood programs goals and delivery.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 29 March 2016
Revised 19 February 2017
Accepted 1 March 2017
KEYWORDS
Father involvement;
fatherhood; fathering
attitudes; low income
fathers; minority fathers
Introduction
In the United States, 24 million children (33%) grow up without their
biological fathers (Rosenberg & Wilcox, 2006). Of their respective popula-
tions, 42% of Hispanic/Latino children and 66% of African American chil-
dren have absent fathers (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2015). Children whose
fathers are not a part of their lives are more likely to live in poverty, drop out
of school, and engage in risky behaviors such as using alcohol, tobacco, and
illicit drugs (Nock & Einolf, 2008; Rosenberg & Wilcox, 2006). Additionally,
they are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system and more likely to be
incarcerated later in life (Flouri, 2005; Nock & Einolf, 2008). Studies also
suggest that a fathers absence early in a childs life has negative cognitive,
emotional, and psychosocial effects on the childs development (Cabrera,
Shannon, & Tamis-LeMonda, 2007; Cowan, Cowan, Pruett, Pruett, &
Wong, 2009; Pruett, 2000). The body of father involvement literature dis-
cusses the quality of fatherspresence in and contributions to their childrens
CONTACT Tanya M. Coakley tcoakley@uncg.edu Department of Social Work, University of North Carolina
at Greensboro, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170.
JOURNAL OF FAMILY SOCIAL WORK
https://doi.org/10.1080/10522158.2017.1302379
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
lives on a continuum from not at all involved (e.g., absent) to adequately
involved (see Coakley, Shears, & Randolph, 2014; Flouri, 2005; Lamb, 2010;
Malm, 2003; Malm, Murray, & Geen, 2006). The premise of father involve-
ment research is to increase fathersdirect or indirect involvement with their
children or on their childrens behalf to reduce negative biopsychosocial
outcomes during childhood (Roberts, Coakley, Washington, & Kelley, 2014;
Cabrera et al., 2007; Cowan et al., 2009; Flouri, 2005; Malm, 2003; Malm
et al., 2006; Pruett, 2000).
Hindrances of father involvement
The reasons that fathers are either absent or not adequately involved in their
childrens lives are complex and inter-related. A number of underlying
societal factors in the United States that are beyond fatherscontrol affect
fathersinvolvement with their childrenpoverty, race and ethnicity, nation-
ality, culture, and gender roles are just some of the reasons that prevent
fathers from fully participating in their childrens lives. Societal racism and
discrimination have had profound effects on numerous facets of African
American and Hispanic and Latino fatherslives. African American men
are more likely than non-Hispanic White men to have low educational
achievement (U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education
Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), poor health (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, 2013),
and substandard and unhealthy housing (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). They
are also more likely than non-Hispanic White men to be incarcerated
(Carson & Sabol, 2012), be unemployed or have low incomes (U.S.
Department of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013), and live
in poverty (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2013). Any of these factors to
which men of color are disproportionately exposed can adversely affect their
ability to function competently as a parent.
Thus, the ecological perspective provides a useful framework for
understanding the experience of fathers and their involvement with
their children. This perspective takes into consideration the expectations
about fatherhood that men must meet as well as the socioeconomic
challenges fathers must address to provide financial and nonfinancial
(e.g., emotional) support to their children during childhood. Problems
between parents that stem from financial stress and disagreements can
hinder their ability and willingness to work together on behalf of their
children (Fagan & Barnett, 2003). It is imperative that fathers have an
amicable relationship with their childs mother because mothers have the
role of a gatekeeperin child-rearing. As a gatekeeper, a mother has the
power to make final decisions about the manner in which the child is
2J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
raised,aswellastocontroltheamountoffatherchild contact (Allen &
Hawkins, 1999; Fagan & Barnett, 2003; Schoppe-Sullivan, Brown,
Cannon, Mangelsdorf, & Sokolowski, 2008). According to Berger and
Langton (2011), father involvement is inextricably linked to the quality
of the motherfather relationship and to conflict within the mother
father relationship. Furthermore, father involvement heavily influences
resident and nonresident fatherslevel of involvement in their childrens
lives (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Fagan & Barnett, 2003; Schoppe-Sullivan
et al., 2008).
According to Lamb (2010), most of the barriers to fatherhood stem from
the socialization experiences of men. Many fathersstruggles with illicit
substance and alcohol abuse, mental illness, poor parenting skills, domestic
violence, and criminal activity hinder their involvement with their children
(Jaffee, Caspit, Moffitt, Taylor, & Dickson, 2001; Waller & Swisher, 2006;
Wilson & Brooks-Gunn, 2001). Fatherspersonal issues may contribute to
familial problems such as shared parenting disagreements and domestic
violence issues that indirectly affect fathersrelationships with their children
(Allen & Hawkins, 1999; McLanahan, & Beck, 2010). In sum, numerous
inter-related barriers exist for fathers internally as well as within their
families and environments that affect the quantity and quality of fathers
involvement (Cowan et al., 2009).
Interventions with fathers who are low income from minority back-
grounds should thus emphasize employment services while addressing
the societal factors that place these fathers at a disadvantage (Behnke,
Taylor, & Parra-Cardona, 2008;Nelson,2004). However, the greatest
challenges of father involvement programsarerecruitingfatherstopar-
ticipate in such programs and retaining them in the programs so they
can benefit from the full effect of the interventions (Butler et al., 2013;
Durant et al., 2007;Jones,Steeves,&Williams,2009). The purpose of
this article is to evaluate the effectiveness of a fatherhood intervention
with fathers who are low income.
Propositions
We propose that fathers who complete the fatherhood intervention will
(1) improve their attitude about being a father
(2) increase their closeness with their children
(3) increase their amount of contact with their children
(4) increase their satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their
children
(5) improve their motherfather relationships
(6) obtain employment.
JOURNALOFFAMILYSOCIALWORK 3
Method
This pretest posttest study of 57 fathers who were low income was conducted
from Fall 2009 to Spring 2010. All study activities were approved by the
Institutional Review Board of a university from the Southern U.S. region.
Recruitment
Recruitment was conducted by our research team of faculty and staff from a
Southern universitys Department of Social Work. Team members consisted
of African American males who had degrees in human services and who were
certified as parent educators. The characteristics of our team members were
instrumental in engaging fathers and maintaining their interest. Using a
purposive sampling method, the participants were recruited from the local
community, which comprised five Southeastern parishes in Louisiana. These
parishes were selected because they had some of the highest Black poverty
rates in that state (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).
Our recruitment efforts produced 100 referrals from local community
organizations, faith-based organizations, grassroots community outreach,
Child Support Enforcement, and social services agencies, including the
county Departments of Social Services. Additionally, referrals were received
from city and criminal courts, the Department of Corrections, and the
Probation and Parole Re-entry Program. The research team explained the
study purpose and risks to prospective participants either by telephone or in
person. Team members communicated the importance of the study and the
research teams need to understand and support fathersfathering needs
through an intervention. This was a critical step in persuading fathers to
trust the team members and subsequently agree to participate.
The inclusion criteria were fathers whose status was (1) noncustodial, (2)
low income, or (3) no income at all. A focus of the program was to help
African American fathers who were noncustodial improve their relationship
with their children and to better understand their child support obligations.
However, there was no stated exclusion criteria for fathers. Therefore, the
project investigators accepted all fathers who showed up to participate
regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Sample
Table 1 provides a description of the father sample. The study sample consisted
of 57 biological fathers. Most of the participants were African American
(86.2%). Fathersages ranged from 21 to 49 years (M= 34.27, SD =8.62,
N= 56). On average, the highest grade that fathers had completed was the 11
th
grade. The majority of fathers had never been married (69%). The fathers had
4J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
histories of unemployment, underemployment, and part-time employment.
Most fathers had worked either in construction or home improvement
(29.8%) or in the restaurant or fast-food industry (29.8%). Several participants
(26.3%) reported that over the past 6 months prior to this study, they had been
homeless or lived in an emergency shelter at some point, and 24.6% reported
that they had lived in a halfway house at some point.
Parenting
Participants reported having from one to seven children (mode = 1,
M= 2.21, SD = 1.42). Moreover, the participants reported having fathered
Table 1. Fatherscharacteristics.
Variable
N=57 %
Legal status
Biological father 100.0
Has a child age 18 not living with him 100.0
Custodial status
Has full or joint custody 80.1
Does not have custody 19.9
Race/ethnicity
African American 86.2
White 10.3
Other 1.0
Age
1820 6.9
2130 39.7
3140 36.2
4150 10.3
5160 6.9
Education
Less than high school 24.6
High school degree 31.0
Graduate Equivalency Diploma 32.8
Technical/associates degree 18.6
Bachelors degree/4-year college degree 1.7
Employment
Full-time 29.8
Part-time 15.8
Temporary, pick-up, or occasional jobs 26.3
Unemployed 28.1
Marital status
Single 69.0
Married/partnered 6.9
Divorced/separated 24.1
Types of employment
Construction worker, concrete finisher, carpenter, painter, contractor, remodeling 29.8
General laborer, stock/busboy, dishwasher, fast-food worker 28.1
Cook, fast-food preparer 10.5
Lawn care, landscaping, garbage collector 10.5
Pipe fitter, electrician, plumber 7.0
Warehouse duties, load and unload 1.8
Cashier, clerical, tax preparer, sales, assistant manager, offset printer 1.8
Other 3.5
JOURNALOFFAMILYSOCIALWORK 5
children with a range of one to five different mothers (mode = 1, M= 1.75,
SD = 1.14). When asked how many of their children lived with them most of
the time, 80.7% reported zero children, 14.0% reported one child, and 5.3%
reported two children.
Child support
With regard to child support orders, 17.2% of the participants reported that
they were supposed to pay child support. Specifically, 12.1% reported having
one child support order, 3.4% reported having two child support orders, and
1.7% reported having three child support orders. Others reported that they
did not have existing child support orders. According to their self-reported
information, the fatherspayments ranged from $100.00 to $583.00 per
month. The average child support payment was about $264.20 per month.
Child support records were made available for 15 of the participants in the
program. According to the child support records, child support payments
ranged from $100.00 to $1,020.00 per month. Arrears ranged from $300.00 to
$21,056.00.
Legal issues
Approximately one-half of the participants reported that they had been
convicted of a misdemeanor crime. In addition, more than one-half reported
that they had been convicted of a felony offense. A few fathers (5.5%)
reported that they had been convicted of a violent crime, and none reported
that he had been convicted of spousal or child abuse. Additionally, 14.5%
reported that they had been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or
driving while intoxicated (DWI), and 16.1% reported that they had been
incarcerated/jailed for committing a non-child-support-related offense.
Sixteen (28.1%) participants reported that they were currently on probation,
and 8.8% reported that they were currently on parole. Furthermore, 24.6%
reported that they currently had charges pending. In addition to legal
problems, 19.6% of the participants reported that they were currently in an
alcohol/drug treatment program.
Intervention
The Full-Time Fathers Program (FTFP) was established through the
Responsible Fatherhood Initiative for the purpose of increasing fathers
involvement in their childrens lives (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of
Family Assistance [USDHHS, ACF, OFA], 2016). The Responsible
Fatherhood Initiatives aim is to help fathers be present in a childs life,
actively contributing to a childs healthy development, sharing economic
responsibilities, and cooperating with a childs mother in addressing the
6J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
full range of a childs and familys needs(USDHHS, ACF, OFA, 2016). The
Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit provides useful strategies for identifying
community needs regarding fathering in the community. Based on results
from the needs assessment conducted by the investigators of our study, the
Responsible Fatherhood Initiative curriculum was adapted to fit the needs of
the target Louisiana community.
The FTFP emphasized 10 of the 19 chapters from the Responsible
Fatherhood Curriculum (USDHHS, ACF, OFA, 2016). There were five
major components of the FTFP: (1) a fatherhood curriculum, (2) child
support services, (3) a peer support group, (4) employment assistance and
job placement, and (5) tracking of parentsparticipation. Each participant
was assessed and an individualized intervention was developed based on the
fathers unique needs. The fathers were required to participate in each
component of the FTFP training as a part of the program completion. The
staff (which included contracted licensed professional counselors/parent
educators and contracted job trainers) conducted the program with fathers
on the universitys campus and at various locations within the communities.
The goal of the fatherhood curriculum was to improve fathersrelation-
ships with their children, significant others, and their childrens mothers.
Fathers received instruction to enhance their parenting skills, fatherhood
roles, and nonfinancial responsibilities (e.g., to emotionally support chil-
dren). Fathers explored their values and learned how to develop positive
values in their children. They also discussed how race and racism affect their
lives and learned strategies to cope. Staff facilitated discussions to help fathers
understand how alcohol and substance use/abuse will deteriorate families.
The child support services curriculum had the goal of ensuring that fathers
understood how to navigate the child support system and knew their legal
rights as a parent in terms of custody sharing and visitation. Team members
were responsible for educating the participants regarding the child support
process and helping them to understand their child support status.
Sometimes this required that the staff help participants identify their child
support workers. The peer support group was essentially a means for fathers
to support other fathers emotionally and provide guidance and encourage-
ment to remain in their childrens lives as active and positive parents.
The goal of the employment assistance and job placement curriculum was to
improve fatherseconomic status by providing job training, employment services,
and career-advancing education (USDHHS, ACF, OFA) such as Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification, so they would be better
able to contribute financially (e.g., child support payments) to their childrens
well-being. They also learned about dressing appropriately for the workplace. This
curriculumwasalsostructuredtoenhancefathersability to maintain employ-
ment by teaching them to adopt new behaviors and skills to enhance responsible
work habits (e.g., consistent attendance and punctuality), conflict resolution and
JOURNALOFFAMILYSOCIALWORK 7
effective communication, social, and interpersonal skills. This was important
given their limited work experience and their need to learn how to handle
disagreements and problem solve when conflictsariseatwork,aswellashowto
not argue or become disrespectful with coworkers or employers or quit a job in
haste. Finally, given the challenges of recruiting and retaining African American
fathers in an intervention, a goal of the program was to track parentsparticipation
to assess the effectiveness of a program designed to help fathers overcome the
major social and ecological barriers to their involvement with their children.
At the beginning of the program, the staff developed individual service
plans for each participant. This plan was used to identify the necessary
services to help each participant to succeed in the program. The staff then
made the necessary referrals to address the needs identified in the individual
service plan. Services could include GED training, housing, job placement
(participants were referred to Career Solutions), or clothing for employment.
Several logistical measures were taken to ensure that fathers would be able to
attend and participate in the program with ease. The staff ensured that
fathers knew the schedule of the program and had a reliable means of
transportation to attend the FTFP sessions.
Participants met for 1 to 2 hours once a week for 6 weeks. The program was
provided free of charge and refreshments were provided. The program sessions
were scheduled on days that were convenient for participants and that did not
interfere with their work schedules. In addition, the sessions were designed to
be brief so they would not become cumbersome for the participants.
Measurement
Form 1: Background Form
The Background Form is designed to collect basic demographic information
about participants. The form contains 24 items such as age, ethnicity, marital
status, educational status, and living arrangement. There are also items
regarding how the participants heard about the program and what they
hope to gain from their participation in the program.
Form 2: Assessment Form
The Assessment Form has 18 items designed to identify potential barriers to
maintaining employment and paying child support. Sample items include
employment history, financial benefits received during the last 12 months,
relationship with each childs mother, and amount of time spent with each child.
Form 3: Program Evaluation Form
The Program Evaluation Form was used to gather data on participants
attitudes and behaviors with regard to fathering and the fathermother
relationship, as well as their evaluation of the FTFP program. This form
8J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
asked participants to rate the program, curriculum and the instructor
using a 4-point scale (1 = strongly agree,2=agree,3=disagree,4=strongly
disagree). Sample items include the information was presented clearly and
the overall course was worthwhile.None of the assessments used was a
standardized instrument; thus, the scalesreliability and validity are
undetermined.
Data analysis
Frequency distributions and percentages were tabulated for demographic
data using SPSS (version 20.0) to examine the distribution and central
tendencies of variables. Pretest and posttest data were analyzed using chi-
squared tests to determine if there were any significant differences in atti-
tudes and behaviors related to fathering before and after the program.
Results
Impact of FTFP
We examined the influence of the fatherhood program on fathersperceived
fathering attitudes and on their behaviors. The results are provided for those
participants who had completed the pretest and posttest at the time of this report.
Propositions
(1) To improve fathersattitudes about being a father: The results indi-
cated a positive change in attitudes about being a father. However,
these results were not statistically significant.
(2) To increase fatherscloseness with their children: The results indicate a
positive change in attitudes about how close fathers feel to their
children. Fewer fathers reported feeling not close at allor somewhat
closecompared to those fathers who reported feeling very closeto
their children. These results were not statistically significant.
(3) To increase the amount of fatherscontact with their children: The
results indicated that there is little positive change in the amount of
time fathers spend with their children. These results were not statisti-
cally significant.
(4) To increase fatherssatisfaction with the amount of time spent with
their children: The results indicated a positive change in attitudes
regarding satisfaction with the amount of time fathers spend with
their children. Fewer fathers reported feeling very dissatisfied,
while more fathers reported feeling somewhat satisfied.These results
were not statistically significant.
JOURNALOFFAMILYSOCIALWORK 9
(5) To improve the fathermother relationship: There was a statistically
significant change between pretest and posttest scores for the variable,
Overall, how would you describe your relationship with the other
parent?Although fewer participants reported no relationshipafter
the intervention, there was a slight increase in very hostileand
somewhat hostileresponses. There was also a slight increase in
somewhat friendlyand very friendlyresponses. The results show
that there was a positive change in fathersperceptions of their rela-
tionships with the other parent (see Table 2). These results are impor-
tant because research has shown that a lack of fathersinvolvement in
their childrens lives is related to strained relationships with their
childrens mothers (Fagan & Barnett, 2003).
(6) To obtain employment: Forty percent of the fathers increased their
education level and completed GED training during the program,
which better positioned them to obtain a job. Fifty percent of the
participants gained employment and increased their earnings while in
the program.
At the time of this postintervention report, 27.27% of the participants had
obtained employment and were currently working. This information is
slightly inconsistent with self-reports about employment. This inconsistency
can be attributed to the timing of the survey that asked about employment.
Participants were given surveys at the beginning of the program. Therefore,
some participants had obtained gainful employment by the completion of
their program. Table 1 gives a complete list of the types of employment
fathers had in the past 12 months prior to beginning the program.
Program evaluation
The vast majority of participants (96.3%) felt that they mastered the material
in the program. Moreover, participants reported that the program provided
useful information that could help them (1) maintain a relationship with
Table 2. Relationship with childs mother.
Overall, how would you describe your relationship with the other parent (mother)?
Pretest Posttest
n=54 % n=54 %
No relationship 6 11.1 0 0
Very hostile 2 3.7 1 1.9
Somewhat hostile 6 11.1 1 1.9
Neutral 13 24.1 10 18.5
Somewhat friendly 10 18.5 14 25.9
Very friendly 17 31.5 28 51.9
Note. χ
2
(5, N= 54) = 13.65; p< .05.
10 J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
their children (100%), (2) communicate appropriately with a coparent
(97.4%), and (3) enhance their knowledge about community resources to
improve their ability to care for and support their children (97.4%).
Participants also indicated that they received the assistance they were seeking
from the program (98.1%), and the majority (84.6%) rated the fatherhood
program as excellent(see Table 3 for a complete list of responses).
Discussion
A meta-analysis of father interventions conducted by Lundahl, Tollefson,
Risser, and Lovejoy (2008) indicated that fathersparticipation in parenting
training programs was associated with positive child outcomes. In this study,
the FPTP participants had an increase in positive attitudes about spending
time with their children, an increase in positive feelings about their closeness
with their children, and an increase in positive attitudes regarding how they
feel about being a father. However, these results lacked statistical significance.
The significant findings regarding the motherfather relationship lend
support for continued support and skill building for fathers to improve the
relationships between fathers and the mothers of their children. This is
essential to provide in the absence of a two- parent family, which is reported
to have significant benefits for children (USDHHS, ACF, OFA, 2016). The
benefits of two-parent families include better economic status, child well-
being, and so on. This indicates that continued emphasis ought to be on
addressing the FTFPs goal to encourage the formation and maintenance of
healthy coparenting between two parents.
Table 3. Impact of full-time fathers program (percentages).
(N= 54) Excellent Good Fair Poor NA
Helped me understand my child support situation 46.2 25.6 7.7 0 20.5
Helped me understand my legal rights and responsibilities with
respect to my children
56.4 33.3 7.7 0 2.6
Provided group support 64.1 33.3 2.6 0 0
Helped me to learn about community services 52.6 36.8 7.9 0 2.6
Helped me to be a better parent 63.2 28.9 7.9 0 0
Provided me with specific job opportunities and getting job
interviews
44.7 34.2 13.2 0 7.9
Improved chances of getting/keeping a good job 51.3 33.3 12.8 0 2.6
Improved my chances of being involved with my children in the
future
68.4 31.6 0 0 0
Helped me to see that other people have similar problems 64.1 25.6 10.3 0 0
Gave me hope about my future 74.4 25.6 0 0 0
Improved how well I communicate with my childs other parent 66.7 25.6 5.1 0 2.6
Improved how well I co-parent with my childs other parent 63.9 25.0 5.6 0 5.6
Changed attitude about relationships with others 59.0 30.8 7.7 0 2.6
Understood my situation 64.1 35.9 0 0 0
Overall, how would you rate the program? 84.6 15.4 0 0 0
JOURNAL OF FAMILY SOCIAL WORK 11
This studys sample was composed entirely of biological fathers. According
to Berger and Langton (2011), biological fathers will invest (referring mainly
to nonfinancial investments) in their children more than social fathers.
Various theoretical perspectives attribute this to biological fatherslegal and
normative obligations, which are much more defined and accepted than
social fathersobligations (Berger & Langton, 2011). Additionally, these
perspectives suggest that this investment by biological fathers in their chil-
dren can be explained by evolution and fathersgoal to pass on their genes
and ensure their childrens success. This may explain why our sample of
biological fathers had high levels of positive regard for their children and
interest in being involved in their lives. These theories imply that social
workers may need to approach father involvement efforts differently accord-
ing to whether they work with biological fathers or social fathers. This is
particularly important given that it is typical in the African American com-
munity for a social father to assume the fatherhood role in the absence of a
biological father (Jayakody & Kalil, 2002).
Our findings also showed that when participants felt better about their role as
fathers, they were more likely to increase their participation as fathers.
Furthermore, when participants increased the quantity and quality of time spent
with their children, they met the goals of the program. The findings indicated an
increase in participantspositive thoughts about fathering and an increase in
spending time with their children.
As demonstrated in this study, employment is an area that requires multi-
layered attention. For instance, many men are required to pay child support but
continue to fall behind on their obligations. Additionally, improved employment
opportunities may serve as a catalyst to fulfill their responsibilities, but the under-
lying issues cannot be ignored. Many of the FTFP participants who had difficulty
obtaining adequate employment had also experienced legal problems and were
dealing with alcohol and substance abuse issues. Therefore, practitioners and
researchers who work with fathers must address those issues simultaneously
during the provision of employment assistance services because they will likely
disrupt any employment progress.
Other challenges included finding employment for participants with extensive
criminal backgrounds and alcohol/substance abuse issues. Consequently, staff
members continue to pursue networking and relationship building with commu-
nity stakeholders to improve communication. This makes it easier to obtain data
such as child support records. Additionally, relationship building is a critical
component of establishing employment opportunities for individuals who are
difficult to place in a job setting. The FTFP staff also acknowledges the difficulties
that transportation issues may pose for participants. Although participants are
provided with bus tokens, not all participants live in areas that are accessible by
public transportation. Thus, it is necessary to hold activities in various places
12 J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
within the community to make them more accessible to participants who live in
different areas and who cannot afford to pay transportation fares.
Limitations
Becauseofthesmallsamplesizeusedinthispresentstudy,wecautionreadersthat
the findings might not be generalizable to the larger population of fathers who are
low income. An additional limitation of the study involves the inconclusive study
results. Although we have some indication that the program helped some fathers
improve interpersonally and economically, we cannot definitively state its effec-
tiveness. We conjecture that the issue is methodological (e.g., larger sample size
needed) and statistical (e.g., parametric test needed), given that the results were in
the predicted direction. Additionally, the fathers provided a positive evaluation of
the effectiveness of the FTFP (see Table 3).
There is a need for future studies on the FTFP using rigorous methodology
and data analysis. A comparison group, pretest, posttest, follow-up design is
suggested. Additionally, the outcome data need to be collected at a contin-
uous level to ensure that the most sophisticated statistical tests are used. We
also suggest a follow-up period of at least 6 months to determine the
participantsability to retain and apply the learned attitudes and behaviors.
Further, because we used a sample that included many fathers who are
disadvantaged who had chronic familial and economic challenges, it is
possible that they need more time to absorb information from the curricu-
lum. Therefore, researchers should account for possible instances where
participants could have a setback and need to receive additional doses of
the intervention. Further, researchers can appraise whether changes are
needed in the frequency, intensity, or duration of various parts of interven-
tions curriculum.
There also was a limitation concerning the breadth of available data.
Specifically, child support records were not available for all participants at
the time of this report. We were therefore unable to ascertain whether there
was an increase in child support payments as a result of participating in the
program.
Additionally, our results showed that approximately 20% of fathers
reported that their children lived with them most of the time.Given that
the sample consisted of noncustodial fathers, a probable explanation for this
result is that African American noncustodial parents who do not have
physical custody commonly have an informal agreement that entails liberal
visitation rights,and thus these parents remain actively involved in their
childrens lives (Wolf, 2016, p. 1). Consequently, noncustodial is not synon-
ymous with no visitation or never lives with the child. Although an African
American father might not have custody, he might still be welcomed as part
JOURNAL OF FAMILY SOCIAL WORK 13
of the family, and he may even assume primary caretaking duties in his own
home the majority of the time.
Also given the complex nature of the relationship of some fathers (e.g.,
having multiple partner fertility or having offspring by more than one
woman), it is possible for a father to have resident and nonresident status.
Thus, he could be nonresident to one or more of his children and yet have at
least one other child that resides with him who he is raising. Our results
indicate that some participants were required to pay child support for
children who did not live with them. This explanation is very likely, as
approximately 24% of the participants had fathered from one to five children
with different women.
Future research with African American fathers should provide a clearer
explanation regarding what is being asked and should offer an opportunity
for fathers to enter a response for each child they have fathered. Additionally,
it is important that future research provide additional culturally sensitive
responses that are unique to African Americansfamily compositions and
family arrangements.
Conclusion
When fathers cannot financially support their children, they are at risk for
being denied child visitation by the mother of their children (Fagan &
Barnett, 2003). Furthermore, they are in jeopardy of being jailed or repeat-
edly fined if they are not able to pay child support. Therefore, we recommend
that social workers implement an ecological approach such as the FTFP to
address the barriers to father involvement so fathers can stay adequately
involved. The explicit benefit is that fathers will learn and apply viable
strategies to support their children financially and nonfinancially and thereby
help their children avoid negative biopsychosocial outcomes. There are
implicit benefits as well: fathers will take pride in their ability to effectively
parent their children, and fathers will achieve self-reliance by establishing
their own economic stability instead of relying solely on the government for
prolonged financial assistance. Moreover, the example fathers set for their
children could be instrumental in breaking the cycle of fathers who are
uninvolved due to limited parenting and social skills and low incomes.
Acknowledgments
The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the
official views of the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities or the
National Institutes of Health. We thank Dr. Margery Williams for her contribution towards
the success of this project. We also thank Elizabeth Tournquist for her editorial suggestions.
14 J. J. BARTHELEMY AND T. M. COAKLEY
Funding
The authors wish to thank the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families for the funding and support of this study. This
study was partially supported by Grant P20MD002289 from National Institute for Minority
Health and Health Disparities or the National Institutes of Health.
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