ArticlePDF Available


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.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Download by: [] Date: 21 May 2017, At: 11:15
Journal of Family Social Work
ISSN: 1052-2158 (Print) 1540-4072 (Online) Journal homepage:
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:
To link to this article:
Published online: 12 May 2017.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 2
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Fathering attitudes and behaviors among low-income fathers
Juan J. Barthelemy
and Tanya M. Coakley
School of Social Work, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;
Department of Social
Work, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
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.
Received 29 March 2016
Revised 19 February 2017
Accepted 1 March 2017
Father involvement;
fatherhood; fathering
attitudes; low income
fathers; minority fathers
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 Department of Social Work, University of North Carolina
at Greensboro, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170.
© 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
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.
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
(5) improve their motherfather relationships
(6) obtain employment.
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 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.
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
grade. The majority of fathers had never been married (69%). The fathers had
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.
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.
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
African American 86.2
White 10.3
Other 1.0
1820 6.9
2130 39.7
3140 36.2
4150 10.3
5160 6.9
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
(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.
(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
(5, N= 54) = 13.65; p< .05.
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).
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
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
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
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
within the community to make them more accessible to participants who live in
different areas and who cannot afford to pay transportation fares.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2015). Children in single-parent families by race. KIDS COUNT
Data Center. Retrieved from
Allen, S. M., & Hawkins, A. J. (1999). Maternal gatekeeping: Mothersbeliefs and behaviors
that inhibit greater father involvement in family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family,
61(1), 199212. doi:10.2307/353894
Behnke, A. O., Taylor, B. A., & Parra-Cardona, J. R. (2008). I hardly understand English,
but...: Mexican origin fathers describe their commitment. Journal of Comparative Family
Studies,39(2), 187205. doi:10.1177/0002716210393648
Berger, L. M., & Langton, C. (2011). Young disadvantaged men as fathers. Annual American
Academy of Political Social Science,635(1), 5675. doi:10.1177/0002716210393648
Butler, J., Quinn, S., Fryer, C., Garza, M., Kim, K., & Thomas, S. (2013). Characterizing
researchers by strategies used for retaining minority populations: Results of a national
survey. Contemporary Clinical Trials,36(1), 6167. doi:10.1016/j.cct.2013.05.014
Cabrera, N. J., Shannon, J. D., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. (2007). Fathersinfluence on their
childrens cognitive and emotional development. Applied Developmental Science,11, 208
213. doi:10.1080/10888690701762100
Carson, E. A., & Sabol, W. J., & U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2012). Prisoners in 2011 (NCJ 239808). Retrieved from http://
Coakley, T. M. (2008). Examining African American fathersinvolvement in permanency
planning: An effort to reduce racial disproportionality in the child welfare system. Children
and Youth Services Review,30(4), 407417.
Coakley, T. M., Shears, J., & Randolph, S. D. (2014). Understanding key barriers to fathers'
case planning involvement. Child & Youth Services,35(4), 343364. doi:10.1080/
Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K. D., & Wong, J. (2009). Promoting
fathersengagement with children: Preventive interventions for low-income families.
Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy,71, 663679. doi:10.1111/jomf.2009.71.issue-3
DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., & Smith, J. C., & U. S. Census Bureau. (2013). Income,
poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2010 (Current population
reports, P60-245). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from
Durant, R. W., Davis, R. B., St. George, D. M., Williams, I. C., Blumenthal, C., & Corbie
Smith, G. M. (2007). Participation in research studies: Factors associated with failing to
meet minority recruitment goals. Annals of Epidemiology,17(8), 634642. doi:10.1016/j.
Fagan, J., & Barnett, M. (2003). The relationship between maternal gate keeping, paternal
competence, mothersattitudes about the father role, and father involvement. Journal of
Family Issues,24(8), 10201043. Retrieved from http://search.proquest. com/docview/
222047118?accountid=14604 doi;10.1177/0192513X03256397
Flouri, E. (2005). Fathering and child outcomes. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons
Jaffee, S. R., Caspit, A., Moffitt, T. E., Taylor, A., & Dickson, N. (2001). Predicting early
fatherhood and whether young fathers live with their children: Prospective findings and
policy considerations. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,42, 803815.
Jayakody, R., & Kalil, A. (2002). Social fathering in low-income, African American families
with preschoolers. Journal of Marriage and the Family,64(2), 504516.
Jones, R. A., Steeves, R., & Williams, I. (2009). Strategies for recruiting African American men
into prostate cancer screening studies. Nursing Research,58(6), 452456. doi:10.1097/
Lamb, M. E. (2010). The role of the father in child development (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John
Wiley & Sons.
Lundahl, B., Tollefson, D. R., Risser, H., & Lovejoy, M. C. (2008). A meta-Analysis of father
involvement in parent training. Research on Social Work Practice,18(2), 97106.
Malm, K. (2003). Getting noncustodial dads involved in the lives of foster children (Caring for
children: Facts and perspectives brief No. 3). Retrieved from
Malm, K., Murray, J., & Geen, R. (2006). What about the dads? Child welfare agenciesefforts
to identify, locate and involve nonresident fathers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Ofce of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
McLanahan, S., & Beck, A. N. (2010). Parental relationships in fragile families. The Future of
Children,2(20), 122.
Nelson, T. J. (2004). Low-income fathers. Annual Review of Sociology,30(1), 427451.
Nock, S. L., & Einolf, C. J. (2008). The costs of father absence. National Fatherhood Initiative
Report.The 100 billion dollar man. Retrieved from
Pruett, K. (2000). Father-need. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Roberts, J. D., Coakley, T. M., Washington, T., & Kelley, A. (2014). Fathersperspectives on
supports and barriers that affect their fatherhood role. SAGE Open,110.
Rosenberg, J., & Wilcox, W. B. (2006). The importance of fathers in the healthy development of
children. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and
Families, Childrens Bureau, Office of Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved from http://
Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Brown, G. L., Cannon, E. A., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & Sokolowski, M. S.
(2008). Maternal gate keeping, co-parenting quality, and fathering behavior in families
with infants. Journal of Family Psychology,22, 389398. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.22.3.389
U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). Selected economic characteristics 2010-2014.American
Community Survey 5-year estimates. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education
Statistics. (2010). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic minorities.
Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families,
Office of Family Assistance. (2016). Responsible fatherhood. Retrieved from http://www.acf.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(2009). Parent training programs: Insight for practitioners. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. (2013). African
American profile.Health conditions. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013). Table A-2. Employment
status of the civilian population by race, sex, and age Retrieved from
Waller, M. R., & Swisher, R. (2006). Fathers risk factors in fragile families: Implications for
healthyrelationships and father involvement. Social Problems,53(3), 392392.
Wilson, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2001). Health status and behaviors of unwed fathers.
Children and Youth Services Review,23, 377401.
Wolf, J. (2016). Non-custodial parents. Retrieved from
glossary/g/non_ custodial.htm
The objective of this study was to examine differences in parenting, psychological well-being, and economic outcomes between fathers receiving two different programs offered by Fathers & Families Support Center for economically disadvantaged fathers: (a) Family Formation (FF), a 6-week/240-h program focused on economic stability/mobility, responsible fatherhood, and healthy relationships, with case management and legal services; (b) Economic Stability (ES), a 4-week/80-h program focused only on economic stability with limited case management and legal services. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was used to compare fathers in FF (n = 350) vs. ES (n = 342). Surveys were administered at enrollment and 3- and 12-months postintervention. Linear and generalized linear mixed models were used to assess changes in program outcomes over time and across study groups. Four hundred and eighty-two fathers responded to either follow-up survey (251 FF, 231 ES). Nearly all (98%) were non-white (93% Black, 5% other/mixed race) and were on average 34 years old. Approximately 46% attended ≥75% of program sessions (FF 48% vs. ES 44%). Both FF and ES groups experienced improvements in parenting, psychological well-being, and financial outcomes after the programs, but changes in outcomes over time did not differ significantly by program. The lack of difference in outcomes between fathers in FF and ES groups could be due to a similar core focus on employment-related curriculum for both groups. Gaining financial stability could have contributed to positive improvements in other fatherhood domains. Implications for future research and practice are discussed herein.
In this review, we synthesise the growing body of interdisciplinary research on fatherhood and employment for the purpose of guiding future management studies research on the topic. We argue that shifts in research approaches and assumptions are required to fully understand the situation of contemporary employed fathers. Our review draws attention to four distinct but related lenses: work, family, and fatherhood; masculine hegemony and fatherhood; involved fathering; and diversity and fatherhood. Extant research on fatherhood and employment reflects often static notions about the ‘nuclear family,’ with expectations about paternal work orientation failing to reflect contemporary paternal experience. We introduce the sociological concept of ‘family practices’ as a means of shifting from traditional (wherein fathers are positioned as breadwinners and mothers as child‐carers within heterosexual couples) to more fluid family forms that characterise 21st century ways of ‘doing fatherhood.’ Implications and avenues for future management studies research are discussed.
Fathers can have a significant impact on their children, yet important gaps in the fathering literature exist. Increasing knowledge of fathers in the child welfare system is important in order to intervene effectively. This study presents findings regarding the ways that fluidity impacts fathers’ parenting. The study sample included 15 fathers in the Mid-Atlantic region who were participating in or had completed a parenting group for child maltreatment. This study was a secondary analysis of qualitative data from a grounded theory study with fathers in the child welfare system in order to examine the impact of fluidity on fathers and fathering. Findings revealed change in multiple areas including: living arrangements, marital status and parenting partners, incarceration, and involvement with children. A better understanding of fluidity in the lives of fathers in the child welfare system is important in efforts to build effective intervention approaches and improve the quality of fathering. Findings suggest the importance of understanding the needs and challenges of these fathers and how fluidity impacts fathers and their children. Implications and recommendations for assessment and intervention are discussed.
Full-text available
For a variety of sociopolitical, economic, scientific, and clinical reasons, considerable interest in the study of father-child relationships has emerged in the last decade. In the last few years, the focus has narrowed to concern about the effects of increased paternal involvement. Interest in, and concern about, the latter seems to be especially prominent among social service providers and clinicians. For this reason, and also because the voluminous literature on paternal influences has been scrutinized quite extensively, we will focus in this chapter on evidence concerning the effects of increased involvement. Much less will be said, mostly in summary fashion, about paternal influences more generally, although readers will be referred to recent reviews for further discussions of the literature.
Full-text available
This qualitative study explored resident and nonresident fathers’ perspectives about factors that facilitated and inhibited their ability to play a positive and active role in their children’s lives. A total of 30 fathers were recruited from a support/mentoring group and from the general population to complete a semi-structured, audio-taped interview. A content analysis revealed that both groups of fathers were committed to maintaining a relationship with their children, and that by being present, they protected their children, helped them emotionally and financially, helped in their overall development, acted as a role model, and shared parenting responsibilities with their children’s mothers. Factors that facilitated parenting for resident and nonresident fathers included receiving proper guidance about fathering, a positive mother−father relationship, support from family, and church. Inhibiting factors were more prevalent for nonresident fathers that included mothers obstructing the father−child relationship, negative views/remarks about them as fathers, father−child visitation that is contingent upon child support, and fathers’ financial difficulties. The findings suggest a need for coparenting counseling, faith-based interventions, and employment services to address the complex socio-economic challenges that fathers face.
Full-text available
Maternal gatekeeping is conceptualized within the framework of the social construction of gender and it defined as having three dimensions: mothers' reluctance to relinquish responsibility over family matters by setting rigid standards, external validation of a mothering identity, and differentiated conceptions of family roles. These three conceptual dimensions of gatekeeping are operationalized with modest reliability and tested with a confirmatory factor analysis on a sample of 622 dual-earner mothers. With cluster analyses, 21% of the mothers were classified as gatekeepers. Gatekeepers did 5 more hours of family work per week and had less equal divisions of labor than women classified as collaborators.
Full-text available
We present findings based on several of our recent studies that have shown that father engagement has significant effects on children's cognition and language at 24 and 36 months and their social and emotional development at 24, 36 months, and pre-Kindergarten. These studies are guided by the Dynamics of Paternal Influences on Children over the Life Course Model that stipulates the important contribution of parent characteristics, child and context to parenting and chil- dren's outcomes. Specifically, three research questions are addressed: (1) How do resident fathers engage with their young children at 24, 36, and 64 months (pre-K)? (2) How do fathers' human and financial resources and depressive symptoms, partner relationship quality and mother-child interactions, and chil- dren's characteristics predict the quality of fathers' engagements with their young children? And (3) how do fathers' engagements affect their young children's cog- nitive, language, and social and emotional outcomes across the three age groups? Educated fathers and fathers whose partners have supportive relationships with their children are more supportive and less intrusive. In contrast to mothers, fathers' supportiveness matters for children's language, cognitive, and language development across ages and emotional regulation at 24 months. On the other hand, maternal intrusiveness is negatively associated with emotional regulation at 24 and pre-K and language development at pre-K. Father intrusiveness had a small negative effect on language development only at pre-K and no effect at all on social emotional regulation. These findings suggest that programs that aim at increasing fathers' education and that promote and encourage fathers' positive parenting will yield large benefits for children.
Fathers who are uninvolved or play minimal roles in their children's lives may unwittingly have adverse effects on their psychosocial development. In 2003, only 54% of nearly a half million children in foster care in the United States had contact with their fathers, compared to 72% of children from the general population. There are multiple, complex personal, familial, societal, and agency barriers that limit fathers’ involvement with their children. We provide recommendations for child welfare agencies to modify their policies to be equitable and financially helpful to fathers, and engage fathers in case planning about their children's safety, well-being and permanency.
We use longitudinal survey and qualitative information from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine how risk factors such as physical abuse, problematic substance use, and incarceration among unmarried fathers in the study are related to fathers' early involvement with their children. The survey results indicate that nearly half of fathers have at least one risk factor and that each risk is negatively associated with paternal involvement. The results also show that fathers with risk factors are less likely to have romantic relationships with mothers and that relationships between parents mediate associations between risk factors and fathers' involvement. Qualitative interviews with a sub-sample of mothers and fathers in the study illustrate the meaning of risks for parents and the processes through which early family outcomes occur. Parents' accounts suggest that mothers often select out of relationships they deem “unhealthy” and monitor fathers' access to children, particularly in cases of physical abuse. While some fathers with risks withdraw from children, others attempt to maintain their involvement independently or as part of a strategy with the mother to address these risks with varying success. We suggest that policies to promote marriage and responsible fatherhood be mindful that some fathers they are targeting have characteristics that may not be conducive to increased involvement while other fathers face personal and institutional barriers to involvement.
This study explored the relationships between maternal gatekeeping, mothers' perceptions of father competence, mothers' attitudes about the father role, and amount of father involvement. The sample consisted of 30 nonresidential and 72 residential fathers. The results of path analysis revealed that residential status of the father had a direct link to mothers' gatekeeping behavior. Father competence was indirectly and directly linked to amount of father involvement with children. Gatekeeping mediated the relationship between father competence and involvement. Maternal gatekeeping was causally linked to amount of father involvement.
Oxytocin (OT) plays an important role in bond-formation and social reciprocity and animal studies indicate that OT functioning is transferred from parent to child through patterns of parental care. Perspectives on attachment suggest that the individual's various attachment bonds are underpinned by the oxytocinergic system. However, prospective human studies that demonstrate the cross-generation transfer of OT as mediated by early caregiving and its impact on children's multiple attachments are lacking. To address these concerns, the current study included one-hundred-and-sixty mothers and fathers and their firstborn child who participated in a three-year longitudinal study. At the first and sixth postpartum months, parents' plasma OT was assayed, parent-infant interactions were videotaped and micro-coded, and allelic variations on the OXTR(rs2254298, rs1042778) and CD38rs3796863 genes were measured. At three years, parents' and child's salivary OT was assessed and children's social reciprocity observed during interactions with mother, father, and their first best friend. Parents' OT levels were individually stable across the three-year period, correlated with low-risk OXTR and CD38 alleles, and predicted child OT. Child's social reciprocity with friend was associated with child OT levels, mother's OT-related genes and hormones, and mother-child reciprocity, but not with father's genes, hormones, or behaviour. A cross-generation gene-by-environment effect emerged, with low child OT levels predicted by the interaction of maternal high-risk CD38 allele and diminished maternal care in infancy. These results demonstrate individual stability in peripheral OT across several years and describe a cross-generation transfer of OT through caregiving in humans within a prospective longitudinal design. Consistent with other mammals, bio-behavioral experiences within the parent-infant bond shape children's affiliative biology and social behavior across multiple attachments. Our findings bear important implications for conditions involving disruptions to maternal-infant bonding and underscore the potential for peer-based interventions.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 16 January 2013; doi:10.1038/npp.2013.22.