Importance And Role Of The Father

“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”

Anne Sexton(1991) reference

This quote by Anne Sexton conveys a deep sentiment about the role of a father. The psychological consequence of this missing father figure can be potentially debilitating to the development and well-being of a child.

In the study of child development, much emphasis is placed on the bond between the mother and the child with significant less regard to the importance of the role of the father (Brookes-Gunn et al. 2000; Fitzgerald and Montanez 2001). The role of the father has frequently been misrepresented in literature as it was evaluated by theories originally intended to study the role of the mother (Roggman et al., 2002). There appears to be a porosity(lack of)? of literature in the research for the role of the father (Phares, 1992; Phares et al., 2005). In 1992, Phares found that only eight (1.4%) of 577 studies of parenting were specific to the role of the father. The same analysis by Phares et al. showed that in 2005, only 11 (2.1%) of 514 studies were of the role of the father only. Though there is clearly a lack of evidence in this study subject, I believe it is an important aspect of what influences child development so I will explore the extent of the father’s role and its effects on child behaviour.

Understanding this issue more thoroughly can change the approach to family social care and adapt theories and programmes to better serve the community. Because aspects of parenting are the most important and consequential aspects of a child’s life, it is imperative for a family support worker to fully understand the relevant theories on child development. My study of health and child development requires an in-depth understanding of key factors that contribute to primarily uk and us papers it appears to be that most of the papers are in the usachild development. This will allow me to help the children I am supporting in the future in an insightful and educated manner. I will be able to connect and engage with the children who may be disconnected from their families and school systems. I believe that an effective family social worker possesses not only compassion and dedication, but also have a strong foundation in the psychology of child development. It is important to be aware of all the subtle aspects that may be influencing the behaviour and development of the child, to really support and help the child achieve a healthy living situation. Ultimately, I want to facilitate the creation of the most positive outcome possible for any child and family I will be assisting.

The emphasis of this dissertation will therefore be looking at children and adolescents who have had a physically missing father or have a father figure who is not involved in the child’s life. Regardless of variation in circumstance, the overall theme will be to explore situations between the father and the child. The dissertation will be looking at how children in the formative early years are affected by the role of the father or lack thereof, and its affect on the development of behavioural problems later on the child’s life. The main age group that I will be exploring is ages 13 and under as this is what ultimately shapes the behavioural problems in the teenage years. However, a qualitative study in Chapter 3 reviews transcripts from subjects 18-36 years, though the subjects are asked to remember childhood feelings. The UK will be the main country of focus as this is the culture with which I will be having direct interaction in the future. will be observing the experience of there is

There are various factors that could define the term behavioural problems. This paper will focus on key aspects of child related behaviour such as Consistent hostility towards authority figures , aggression, compulsive lying, self harm and a threat to other people or pets, truancy damaging property, early drinking smoking and sexual behaviour and arrest/prison. Though not each of these acts will be explored in detail, these factors give reference to what is referred to as behavioural problems in the scope of this paper.

Having clarified the issue and terminology, the following three research questions will be explored. Firstly, what is the attachment theory about the role of a father in the life of children and adolescents? Is there a relationship between behavioural difficulties in children and adolescents and the role of the father? And finally, what are the implications of the findings for future research in parenting and young people’s development?

Background Literature

Attachment theory as presented by John Bowlby (1997) was developed from his observation of infants and their development of attachment to their primary caregiver. Bowlby identified key features in the child’s developing behaviours: bond formation, separation protests, stranger anxiety, and exploratory activities. He demonstrated that infants were motivated by the pure instinct of survival to seek a physical bond with their mothers. The mother-child attachment is instinctual and rooted in evolutionary theories put forth by Charles Darwin. This attachment is a lifelong issue and explains certain behaviour patterns such as how the child later relates to other people, how the child feels about themselves, as well as overall psychological well-being.

Attachment is the behavioural system within the child, organising the child’s feelings towards the attachment figure. Bowlby (1997) outlines four stages in the development of attachment. The ‘pre-attachment’ phase occurs in the first two months of life, with the infant displaying signalling behaviours to create proximity to the caregiver. The ‘attachment-in-the-making’ stage occurs between two and seven months, as the child starts to recognise and distinguish regular caregivers to others. The next phase of ‘clear-cut attachment’ establishes an enduring relationship to a caregiver as the child forms recall memory between the age of seven months and two years. Finally, there is the ‘goal-corrected partnership’ that develops, from the second or third year onwards, where the child seeks safety through a stable attachment figure.

Attachment functions through the attachment behavioural system, which comprises of many different behaviours that serve a common outcome. Bowlby (1997) stated that the predictable outcome of this system was to bring the individual closer to the attachment figure with the expectation that the attachment figure will remove stressors, and therefore deactivating the need for the attachment behaviour. Though initially thought of as a start-stop system by Bowlby, Main (1999) showed that there is now a general consensus that the attachment system is continually active. This was modified as such because a ‘turned off’ system would leave the child vulnerable, so instead of inactivity, it was more likely that there was continual monitoring to the accessibility of the attachment figure.

There are two generally accepted methods to assess attachment: the Strange Situation Procedure and the Attachment Q-Sort. The Strange Situation Procedure (Ainsworth et al., 1978) is studied in a playroom with a one-way mirror used for observation. The procedure consists of different episodes where the child experiences both separation and reunion with the mother along with experiences with an unfamiliar stranger. The Attachment Q-Sort (Waters, 1987) method is based on observing children in a number of environments. The children are rated on attachment related behaviours to provide a score on a continuous scale from secure to insecure.

Bowlby’s attachment theory emphasized the importance of the role of the mother, leaving the role of the father ambiguous (1997). The influence of the father has not been studied as extensively as the influence of the mother (Brooks-Gunn et al. 2000; Fitzgerald and Montanez 2001). However, since then there have been studies into the father-child relationship as well. Because children attach to fathers differently from and independently of mothers, the consequences of these attachments are different as well (Bowlby, 1982 p. 315; Goodsell, Meldrum, 2010).

In this dissertation the aims and

Aim 1: To explore what attachment theory say’s the role of the father in a child’s life

Aim 2: To investigate the relationship between behavioural difficulties in children and the role of the father

Aim 3: To consider the implications of the findings for future research and policies

Research question 1: What does the attachment theory say about the role of a father in the life of children and adolescents?

Research question 2: Is there a relationship between behavioural difficulties in children and adolescents and the role of a father?

Research question 3: What are the implications of the findings for future research and policies involving parenting and young people’s development?

Chapter two Methodology

A literature review was chosen for this paper to summarise and analyse the role of fatherhood and its effect on children. Primary research was not possible with the given timeframe and resources. Therefore, the most efficient method of analysis was to select and organise strong pieces of work in a literature review.

I started by searching through books, journal articles, and informational websites. For books, I utilised the library catalogue and system to find related subjects on attachment theory and fatherhood. To search for journals, I relied heavily on Pubmed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) as my first point of search. I used the “limits” and “advanced search” options on the Pubmed website to narrow down searches to “title/abstract” when the search returned too many hits to read through. I also used the Cochrane Collaboration website (http://www.cochrane.org/) when searching for systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The following are the key phrases that I searched for in various combinations: attachment theory, Bowlby, Ainsworth and the Strange Situation Procedure, Attachment Q-Sort, role of the father and behavioral difficulties in children, absence of father in the UK, antisocial behavior in children without fathers, psychological consequences of fatherlessness, child development and role of the father, role of the mother versus the role of the father, behavioral problems in children and adolescents, relationship between the father and child, Lamb and the framework of fatherhood, longitudinal studies on the relationship between father and child, meta analysis of the role of the father, effect on the child of the quality of care from the father, policy implications of marriage, future recommendations on child development and fatherhood, and future research on the role of the father.

In terms of websites, I initially used the Google search engine to research official government and organization websites to obtain accurate statistics for the quantitative portions of this paper. There were some inherent inclusion and exclusion criteria applied to all searches. Literature searches for this paper were limited to publications and websites in English. Furthermore, only official government or registered organizations were referenced. Much attempt was put in to keep this paper UK-based; however, some studies and statistics were taken from the US with a note that generalisability was possible between the UK and US.

The majority of the references I used were from the 1980’s until present time. However, some psychological theories on fatherhood are dated to earlier times than the 1980’s. Additionally, one longitudinal study I examined was published in 2002, but with the subjects being recruited from birth in 1958 (Flouri and Buchanan). The rationale behind keeping the search as current as possible is so the findings can still be generalisable to the current culture of modern times. However, for long-term longitudinal studies, it would not be practical to limit the time period as severely.

The critical appraisal tool I used for this paper was The Pocket Guide to Critical Appraisal by Crombie (2006). I chose this specific critical appraisal guide as it showed a step by step approach of what to look for in clinical papers. It detailed different research methodologies and the strengths and weaknesses of each. It was helpful in clarifying the validity and reliability of the data portrayed in the papers. I also used the Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice (Pencheon et al., 2008) and Epidemiology in Medicine (Hennekens, 1987) as reference guidelines for details on research design, data analysis, and statistical interpretation of p-values, biases, and confounding factors.

3.1 Research question #1: What does the attachment theory say about the role of a father in the life of children and adolescents?

A 22-year longitudinal study suggests that because the quality of the father-child relationship are derived differently than the mother-child relationship, it should be assessed differently as well (Grossman et al., 2008). Furthermore, most attachment researchers have concluded that the mother-child relationship and the father-child relationship develop independently of one another (Braungart-Rieker et al., 2001; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2006; Sroufe, 1985).

One of the most influential frameworks of father involvement comes from Lamb et al. (1985). This model proposes a three-part involvement from the father: direct interaction with the child, accessibility – both physically and psychologically, and responsibility in terms of the child’s welfare and care. This model is generally accepted as the definition of paternal involvement (Pleck, 1997; Radin, 1994).

Yogman (1981) found that during infancy and the preschool period, fathers engage in more play than caregiving compared to mothers. While the father is capable of providing sensitivity to an infant, the father becomes more active as the toddler grows more autonomous (Lamb, 1997). Paquette (2004, p. 193) described the role of the father as a physically playful one that is an ‘activation relationship’ as compared to the mothers who provide a calming environment for the child. Paquette (2004) suggested that this role of the father to support activity and risk-taking while still maintaining a safe environment, encourages children to

Quantitative ones look at sample sizes the larger the sample size the more they will cover how many children,types of children they were (genralisable bit) what gender they were, demographicscross cultural, targeted at specific children.to much of a small sample size to generalise all children

Qualitative –its not a representative sample

It lack of clarity of questions used in the essay the questions were not made public so its hard to ascertain their worth.wording of the questions to kids to ambiguous?phrasing

They looked at these questions but didn’t highlight on this

develop obedience and competitive skills. Volling et al. (2002) noted an association between the father’s playful activity and the effect on the children’s emotion regulation.

In a qualitative study of the transcripts of oral history interviews, Goodsell and Meldrum (2009) studied the concept and themes of closeness to fathers without closeness to mothers. Data were collected in 2001 and 2002 in a Midwestern city in the US of parents-to-be, whose ages ranged from 18-36 years. In the interviews, research participants were asked evaluative questions such as what it means to be a good father. The participants were able to draw upon any experiences or personal influences in their stories. The interviews were audiorecorded and also transcribed verbatim. The inclusion criterion for this study was limited to participants who felt close to his or her father but distant from his or her mother as judged by researchers who independently read through all the coded transcripts. Out of the total of 79 interview transcripts that were available, four interviews were selected. All four cases were white, married, women who had at least some college education. A categorical-content narrative analysis was conducted for the four transcripts. The transcripts were interpreted for narrative content instead of narrative structure. Knowledge of attachment theory gave focus to the qualities of relationships between the narrator and her parents, giving an interpretive and descriptive approach to the research.

The data suggested the fathers are both a playmate and an attachment figure, taking on a nurturing role as well as providing financially for the family (Goodsell and Meldrum, 2009). The participants shared experiences of the father’s support at community activities, counselling on dating, his role as a teacher, his role as the one who gives more hugs and affection, and even dealing with the daughter’s first menstruation. The fathers were able to do their daughters’ hair and listen and respond to her problems in a nurturing way. The participants claimed that parent-roles were not either playful or nurturing, but could be both. One participant suggested that when one parent does both, the two roles reinforce each other in a positive way. Though father-daughter outings were playful, they were also helpful in establishing security in their relationship.

The participants also illustrated that the fathers were able to be their primary attachment figure despite working away from home during the day (Goodsell and Meldrum, 2009). One of the participants said in the interview that she preferred receiving help on her homework from her father when he returned from work, instead of from her mother who spent the majority of the day with her. She felt the mother exhibited frustration and impatience, while her father was patient and helpful even returning home after a day’s work. This showed to the participant, that her father truly cared for her and established a closer bond to her father than her mother.

Participants also explored the concept of compensatory fathering during the interviews (Goodsell and Meldrum, 2009). This is the phenomenon in which the father accommodates his partner’s inability or unwillingness to nurture. The mother is unable to become the primary attachment figure so the father assumes the rule so the child is not left without one. The four participants considered the father’s role as not secondary to the mother. The participants suggested that a close bond with their fathers were possible even when the marital relationship was inadequate. One of the participants recalled her father’s stability, kindness, patience, and dependability which made up for her mother’s weaknesses. She remembers going to her dad in stressful situations and through communication and positive involvement, she developed a trusting relationship with her father.

Another pattern that emerged from the interviews is the self-assertive fathering role (Goodsell and Meldrum, 2009). The participants suggested that despite the presence and ability of the mother to become the primary attachment figure, the father overshadowed the mother-child relationship and became the primary attachment figure. The participants characterised the mothers’ involvement as limited as the bulk of their interaction in the family dynamic was with their fathers. The mothers may have been present during activities, but not as actively involved as the fathers were. One of the participants describes her mother as secondary in verbally encouraging her during her childhood. The participants described a model of the self-assertive father such that a nurturing father assumed the primary attachment role because the mother’s positive involvement was too minimal to be perceived by the child as nurturing. This led to the participants attaching very strongly to the nurturing father even when the mother had not necessarily relinquished her role as a potential attachment figure.

This qualitative study shows that the role of the father is indeed versatile, fathers can compensate for mothers in a sense as an alternative attachment figure (Goodsell and Meldrum, 2009). The study shows that attachment to the father is a result of mutual response of the father and the child. It appears that a strained marital relationship does not cause problems in the child-father attachment. However, there are limitations to this research. This study reported only the relationships from the perspective of daughters as all four selected interviews were women. Also, this study only considers the effects of the father-child relationship until a certain age. Finally, as the four participants all happened to be white, married, females, studies into different cultures and subcultures would expand the knowledge on this topic as well.

3.2 Research question #2 - Is there a relationship between behavioural difficulties in children and adolescents and the role of a father?

Attachment theory suggests that the experience children have with their attachment figure will have a significant effect on their ability to form affection bonds later in life (Bowlby, 1999, Grossmann & Grossman, 2007). Insecure attachment is associated with disruptive behaviour disorders and associated with increased levels of emotional and behavioural problems in youth (Greenberg et al. 1990; Renken et al. 1989). It has been shown that parental involvement are associated with children’s greater social competence, academic achievement, and less misconduct, delinquency, and drug use (Doyle et al., 2004). This would suggest that the absence of such an attachment figure, would lead to behavioural difficulties in children who have lacked this connection.

Looking specifically at the relationship between a child and his father could serve as a starting point in exploring the consequences of the absence of a father. Firstly, it has been shown that fathers do generally serve as an attachment figure for children, even when they are not the primary caregiver (Grossmann et al., 1999). A study by Verschueren and Marcoen (1999) showed that children with a secure relationship their father were associated with fewer behavioural problems. Harper et al. (2006) found that the support from a father, and not the mother, predicts lower levels of aggressive behaviour among preadolescents. A study by Chen et al. (2000) showed that paternal warmth predicted social and school achievements, while maternal warmth predicted children’s emotional adjustment. However, these studies are not able to be replicated due to the methodology of using unique contributions among highly correlated predictors (Stolz et al., 2010)

An overview by Lamb (1997) showed that the absence of a father was associated with poor outcomes for children due to emotional distress for the single mother, economic stressors, perceptions of abandonment, and divorce-related marital conflict issues. However, more in-depth search into this topic shows that it is not necessarily the presence versus the absence of the father that greatly impacts the child— but in fact, the quality of the presence. In a meta-analysis of 63 studies of the relationship between non-resident fathers and their children, Amato (1999) found that when fathers paid child support, had a close emotional bond with the child, and participated in authoritative parenting, the children were more successful academically and had fewer behavioural problems. However, in this study, the children’s well-being was not associated with the amount of time the father and child saw each other. Therefore, this suggests that the quality of time between the father and the child is a better predictor of the child’s outcome than the amount of contact.

The Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, an epidemiological study of 1,116 five-year old twin children and their parents, researched the association between antisocial behaviour in fathers and behavioural problems in children (Jaffee et al., 2003). The participants were gathered from the 1994 and 1995 birth cohorts of the Twins’ Early Development Study (TEDS), a birth register of twins born in England and Wales. The E-Risk study adjusted the study population to match the distribution of young mothers (15-20 years old at first birth) in the overall population at the time. Data were collected within 120 days of the twins’ fifth birthday by home interviews.

The father’s antisocial behaviour was reported by the mother using the Young Adult Behaviour Checklist and the presence of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM- IV) symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). The father’s presence was reported from the mother and calculated as the proportion of months the father resided with the child from the total number of months, in the first five years of the child’s life. The father’s caretaking was measured as reported by the mother, on a 6-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 5 (daily). The child’s antisocial behaviour was assessed with the Achenbach family of instruments as well as reports from the mother and teacher. The child’s behavioural problems in the clinical range was assessed using the diagnosis of conduct disorder using the mother and teacher reports, Achenbach family of instruments, as well as the DSM-IV.

The E-Risk study defined fathers with high levels of antisocial behaviour as those who score greater than or equal to the 85th percentile of the distribution and low levels of anti-social behaviour as those who scored in the lower 15th percentile of the distribution. A linear regression analysis determined the effects of the fathers’ antisocial behaviour and the fathers’ presence on the child’s antisocial behaviour. The results showed statistically significant results that fathers’ antisocial behaviour predicted elevated levels of antisocial behaviour in the child (p≤0.001). However, when the fathers’ antisocial behaviour was controlled, the presence of the father did not affect the behaviour of the child (p=0.33). When the fathers’ antisocial behaviour was low to moderate, the presence of the father was associated with less antisocial behaviour in the child. However, when the fathers’ antisocial behaviour was high, the presence of the father was associated with increased antisocial behaviour in the child. Accordingly, the children with the worst behavioural problems were ones who had fathers with high levels of antisocial behaviour who cares for their child on a daily basis (p≤0.05). Therefore, the E-Risk study showed that the presence of the father is only beneficial to the child when the father is at a low level of antisocial behaviour. The effect the father’s role was not absolute in terms of presence versus absence, but rather of the quality of care the father provided to the child.

Another UK-based study (Flouri and Buchanan, 2002) examined the role of the father and its effect on the mental health of children at later times in their lives. This study involved 8,441 subjects from the National Child Development Study (NCDS), a longitudinal study of children born between March 3 and 9 of 1958 in England, Scotland and Wales. Only the individuals with a complete mental health data at age 16 and 33 were taken for this time. The mental health outcomes for the subjects were assessed using the Rutter ‘A’ Health and Behaviour Checklist and the Malaise Inventory. In line with Lamb’s (1986) framework for father involvement, the study developed appropriate measures of the father’s accessibility and interaction. The results showed involvement of a father figure had a significantly protective role against behavioural problems in adolescents from non-intact families. A limitation to this study is the possibility of bias in the responding sample. Analysis of response bias showed that there was greatest loss to follow-up in the more disadvantaged group. The effect of the role of the father is described as a protective effect in this study, decreasing the outcome of behavioural issues in children with fathers compared to those without fathers.

In addition to analyses of these longitudinal studies, there are also statistical figures that indicate behavioural difficulties in children who lack the presence of or quality of care from a father. The CSJ Family Breakdown Report (2007) states that 70% of prison offenders are from fatherless homes. Statistics from the US show that 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US DHHS Bureau of the census),90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes(Centre for Disease Control)as well as 85% of all children that exhibit behavioural disorders come from fatherless homes (Centre for Disease Control) 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Criminal Justice & Behaviour, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978) and71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principles Association Report on the State of High Schools.)These statistics translate to mean that children from a fatherless home are: 5 times more likely to commit suicide ,32 times more likely to run away ,20 times more likely to have behavioural disorders,14 times more likely to commit rape (males) and20 times more likely to end up in prison.

Alhough these statistics are taken from the US, the applicability of the impact of fatherlessness and its connection with the child’s behavioural problems can likely be generalisable in the context of the UK or any other culture as the impact of fatherlessness seems to be a human condition rather than a cultural issue. Many theories and analyses suggest an association between the role of the father and its effect on the child.

3.3 Research question #3- What are the implications of the findings for future research and policies involving parenting and young people’s development?

As stated earlier in research question 1, attachment behaviour towards the mother and the father are different so it is important to expand research on the dynamics of these attachments. To explore the dynamics of the family, studies of when the child is attached to the father but distant with the mother is relevant. Some researchers have argued that a secure relationship with the father could compensate for an insecure relationship with the mother (Kromelow et al., 1990). These scenarios in which the fathers compensate for a lacking child-mother relationship should be an area for future research. Studying these cases would delve deeper into the role of the father and really help assist children to whom this dynamic is applicable.

As the qualitative study outlined in Chapter 3 (Goodsell and Meldrum, 2009) only covers the child-father relationship from the perspective of a daughter, future research could analyse the child-father relationship from the viewpoint of a son. As there are many cultural gender differences, it is important to study the perspective from both genders. The father may feel he needs to show more emotions without a close mother-child attachment relationship, or the father may enter into a hyper masculine relationship with his son without the mother. Additionally, as this study only considered the lives of the daughters until a certain point, further research could interview older people who have had more experiences. These experiences could include marriage, possible separations or divorce, having children of their own, grandchildren, etc and how they reflect back on the roles of their father at this later point in life.

Results from the E-Risk study showed that it is the quality of care from the father that positively affected the child rather than the mere presence of the father. Future research should concentrate on the type of quality care that can be offered by the father that is associated with the most positive impact on the child. Thus, researchers should consider “positive paternal involvement” which is an aggregate term of the net effects of father involvement, rather than just the time spent with the child or activities engaged in with the child (Pleck, 2007). The E-Risk study also offers insight into implications for policy. As it is not just the presence of the father that matters to the outcome of the child, any policies regarding the support of marriage may be affected. Marriage is unlikely to turn around the antisocial behaviour of men, in which case, more harm would fall to the child to be continuously around an antisocial father.

A study of the data gathered from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study examined the effect of intra- and interdependent networks that non-marital fathers utilised to fulfil the responsibilities of being a father (Castillo and Fenzl-Crossman, 2010). The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study is a national study in the US that examines the consequences of children from low-income non-marital parents. The study gathered information on family characteristics, father-child relationship, mother-child relationship, demographics, background, environment and programmes, health behaviour, religion, education, employment, income, etc. The final study population consisted of 2,754 fathers of all ages who were not married or residing with their child and whose children under the age of 2 years.

Father involvement was measured from an eight-item scale according to how often they played peek-a-boo, sang songs, read stories, told stores, played indoors, visited relatives, showed physical affection, and supervised bedtime activities (Castillo and Fenzl-Crossman, 2010). The possible scores ranged from 0-7 which were indicative of the number of days out of the week the fathers were involved with their children. A final global score was assessed ranging from 0-8, no involvement to high involvement respectively. The father’s relationship with their former partner was measured by asking the father about the relationship with the child’s mother, scoring between 0-4, where 0 is poor and 4 is excellent. The father’s involvement with informal networks was assessed by asking if the father received any of the following from family and friends: financial support, a place to live, and emergency child care. The answers were combined to give a global score from 0-6, from no informal network to very high levels of informal network. The father’s involvement with formal networks was based on questions about financial, employment, medical, and parental support from governmental programmes or social welfare organisations. The global score ranged from 0-5, with 0 indicating no formal network and 5 indicating very high levels of formal network.

Multivariate linear regression analyses showed that fathers’ social networks were significantly and positively associated with their involvement with their children (Castillo and Fenzl-Crossman, 2010). Additionally, the father’s relationship with the mother of their child was significantly and positively associated with the father’s involvement with their child. This shows that future research and policies should encourage a supportive network for the father as well as advocating the maintenance of a strong relationship between the father and mother, regardless of marital status. Since fathers who receive support from family and friends are likely to maintain closer relationships with their child, future research should expand on this. Future studies could explore various methods of support for the father to identify which are the most beneficial to the father-child relationship as well as being feasible and cost-effective. Research should also investigate the possible approaches to fostering a positive relationship between the mother and the father, without necessarily pushing marriage. Future research could analyse the best policies and programmes that would encourage a good relationship between the parents and examine its effect on the involvement of the father.

CHAPTER 4: discussion and CONCLUSION

Understanding and addressing the role of the father and its effect on the child is important for a future social worker. The study of child development has many sub-topics and some are more widely studied than others. Currently, there is much more available literature about the mother-child relationship than the father-child relationship. Despite this lack of information, I felt it was important to study the bond between the father and child, summarised in three aims.

The first aim of this paper was to explore the attachment theory and the role of the father in the child’s life. John Bowlby’s attachment theory (1997) presented key features of the child’s developing behaviours. The attachment theory describes the child’s feelings towards the attachment figure and can be viewed as a multitude of stages in the child’s early life. There are a variety of methods to assess this attachment, such as the Strange Situation Procedure (Ainsworth et al., 1978) and the Attachment Q-Sort (Waters, 1987). The father-child relationship has been concluded to be derived differently from that of the mother-child relationship and therefore should be assessed differently as well. The qualitative study of transcripts by Goodsell and Meldrum (2009), described various themes in the role of the father from the lives of four women who had a strong relationship with their father, but not their mother. Data from this study suggested that the father could be both a playmate and attachment figure. This study also showed that the father was able to compensate for the void of a missing attachment to the mother.

The second aim of the paper was to investigate the relationship between the role of the father and behavioural difficulties in children. Various studies indicated that it is the quality of care given by the father that determines the outcome of the child’s behavior more so than the actual presence versus absence of the father. A meta-analysis by Amato (1999) showed that several qualities of the father, such as having an emotional bond with the child, paying child support, and participating in authoritative parenting was associated with fewer behavioral problems in the children. The study also showed that the amount of time spent together by the father and child was not associated with the child’s well-being. The E-Risk study (Jaffee et al., 2003) showed that time spent between the father and child affected the child positively when the father had low amounts of antisocial behavior. However, when the father exhibited many antisocial characteristics, the time spent with the child actually increased behavioral difficulties in the child. This supports the notion that it is the quality of care the child receives from the father that is important, instead of just the amount of time.

And finally, the third aim of the paper was to consider the implications of the findings for further research and policies. One possible aspect of future research could further explore the phenomenon of fathers compensating for the lack of a strong mother-child relationship. This would be helpful for dealing with these specific cases as a social worker. As the second aim showed that father’s quality of care is important to the child’s well-being, future research should consider “positive paternal involvement” (Pleck, 2007). This could lead to research into what kinds of father-child activities most positively impact the child. A study by Castillo and Fenzl-Crossman (2010) suggests that policies to improve the father’s social networks could increase his involvement with the child. Furthermore, a positive relationship between the mother and father, regardless of martial status, increases the involvement of the father. Therefore, policies to promote a healthy and stable relationship between the mother and father would be beneficial to the child’s well-being.

The relationship between the father and the child is being recognized as an important component in the development of the child. It is clear to see the large gap in the amount of literature that has been written in regards to the relevance of a father’s inclusion to the successful upbringing of a child. It is recommended that more research should be centered around the child’s attachment concerning initial contact/exposure from birth and need for a male father role rather than the importance of a father role in comparison to a mothers role, as it is clear to see they both hold equal footing.

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.”

Sigmund Freud