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Role Of Fathers In The Lives Of Children

4774 words (19 pages) Essay in Psychology

15/05/17 Psychology Reference this

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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between paternal role identity and fathering outcomes by linking fathers’ metaparenting beliefs and behaviors with their pre-teenage and teenage children’s perception of fathering roles in their lives. A convenience sample of 25 fathers (18-65 years) and their pre-teen/teenage daughters (n=25; 11-17 years) participated in the study. Three data collection instruments were used: the 16-item Fathering Relationship Questionnaire, a semi-structure interview and the 7-item Fathering Role Perception Survey, which is adapted from the Role of the Father Questionnaire (ROFQ; Palkovitz, 1984). Fathers’ metaparenting beliefs and attitudes were positively correlated to children’s perception of fathering roles. Fathers’ perception of themselves as the playful father and fathers as providers were positively correlated to children’s perception of fathering roles as providing warmth and physical care. Children’s perception that fathers are not significantly represented in caregiving, nurturing and cognitive/stimulating activities were supported by fathers’ not perceiving themselves as emotional fathers.

Introduction

Parents serve an important role in the socialization of children. Parents model important values, principles and ideals as well as attitudes, actions and behaviors that are necessary for the successful physical, emotional and social development of the child. Because of unique biological differences as well as social identities, fathers and mothers engage in different parenting roles, that when combined, provide the most comprehensive model to help the child develop successfully. For this reason, children need both parents to help them develop the skills to help them build successful social relations, engage in responsible behavior, develop the confidence and skills to be successful in school and to become well-rounded emotionally, physically and psychologically. Over the last two decades, researchers have begun to pay more attention to the idea that fathers make important contributions to child development. This is due in part to several factors, including the increase in the number of dual-earning families, the availability of affordable and quality healthcare and the women’s movement. Studies in developmental psychology, sociology and family and gender have also contributed to more emphasis on the role of fathers in the family. These changes have caused a shift in the society’s expectations of father as well as the nature of fatherhood and fathering and impact of fathers providing nurturing care (Parke, 2004; Davis & Perkins, 1996). Evan (1995) indicates, however, that while fathers have now become the subject of studies and review, this is a relatively new area of study. Given the potential role involved fathers have on the development of their children, it is important to understand how fathers perceive their fathering role and its impact on children.

Review of the Literature

Nicholson, Howard and Borkowski (2008) investigated whether fathers were able to display metaparenting skills during the first two years of their children’s lives. Metaparenting refers to a mental plan that parents use when caring for their children across five domains: responding, preventing, monitoring, mentoring, and modeling. To determine how fathers think about and conceive of their parenting strategies, the researchers looked at the two main factors contributing to paternal identity: father absence and the availability of positive parenting role models. The participants included 87 fathers. Fathers were also evaluated for their metaparenting beliefs and behaviors, and assessed for parenting stress, parenting style, knowledge of child development and child abuse potential. The study revealed that positive parenting role models and intelligence were associated with working models of parenting based on the five components of metaparenting. Furthermore, authoritative parenting and a decrease in abuse potential were related to higher levels of metaparenting.

Schock and Gavazzi (2005) observe that despite the expansion of fatherhood literature over the last several decades, not much is understood about the role of fathers in their relationship with problematic adolescents. The authors used a modified grounded theory approach (i.e., one based on the participants’ meaningful experiences) to examine the intrapsychic and interpersonal difficulties that fathers’ experience with their court-involved adolescent daughter. The participants for the study included 14 fathers (mean age=46.6) who participated in a family-based diversion program for their at-risk adolescent daughters. Their daughters had a mean age of 15.6 years. The goal of the program was to help each family identify and support the developmental needs of their adolescents so that they can successfully move into adulthood. The fathers completed face-to-face semi-structured interviews with the questions addressing topics such as the fathers’ perception of their relationship with their adolescents, fathers’ unique skills to cope with the adolescent’s problematic behavior, and barriers/facilitators for participating in the program. The results indicate that fathers of female adolescents had feelings of uncertainty about their role as parents in four areas: poor understanding of their daughters’ female issues (e.g., dating, menstruation, etc.), communication barriers related to conversation topics and style of communication, limited involvement due to the absence of shared interests, and indecision about how to address their daughter’s problematic behavior. Based on the findings by Schock and Gavazzi (2005), it is possible that fathers have communication problems with their teenage daughters because they did not form secure attachments with their daughters during the first two years of their lives.

Newland, Coyl and Freeman (2008) investigated the relationships between preschoolers’ attachment security, father’s involvement (parenting behaviors and consistency) and fathering context (i.e., fathers’ use of social support and their internal work models (IWMs)) in 102 culturally diverse U.S. fathers of preschoolers age 2-5 (51.3% males, 48.7% females). The results indicate that father’s secure attachments with other adults and their use of social support were related to parenting and co-parenting behaviors. These in turn, predict child attachment security. The use of rough housing play was considered the most important predicator of child attachment security, more important than fathers’ sensitivity and consistency. The authors conclude that the findings suggest that fathers play an important role in their children’s attachment security. Furthermore, the results indicate that shared father-child activities, parenting consistency and co-parenting behaviors should be emphasized among fathers.

In a similar study, Maurer (2007) examined factors contributing to effective parenting behaviors among fathers by comparing the competing theories of parenting behavior, Gender Congruence Theory (GCT) and Social Mediation Theory (SMT). The GCT proposes that parental behaviors and perceived parental-appraisal of their parenting skills are influenced by parental identity based on gender-traditional roles. For example, women perceive themselves as good caregivers whereas men perceived themselves as breadwinners. The SMT indicates that parenting behaviors and perceptions are influenced by social forces and that parenting behaviors differ among social groups. A total of 73 fathers (mean age = 33.7 years) participated in the study. The parents’ caregiving identities, perceptions of partners expectations and the perceived caregiving behavior of other same-gender parents were assessed. Using multiple regression analyses, the researcher found that the perceived behaviors of other fathers were significant predictors of fathers’ behaviors. Mothers’ behaviors were also predicted by the perceived behaviors of other mothers. The author concludes that SMT model is a better predictor of fathers’ parenting behaviors than the GCT model, the models were not very effective in predicting fathers’ behavior.

McDonald and Almeida (2004) used an ecological perspective to examine the differential impact of work experiences on fathering experiences at home. A total of 290 fathers (mean age=40) participated in the study. The participants first completed a 30 to 40 minute telephone interview about their daily experiences after which they were mailed a written survey. The participants completed questions about the past 24 hours about their use of time, productivity and cutbacks at work, and their daily work/family stressors. Family stressors were related to daily hours spent with children (i.e., father-child engagement time in giving emotional support, listening to problems or comforting a child). The fathers’ daily work experiences were determined with measures of paid work hours, work cutbacks and work overloads. Using the Hierarchical Linear Models (HLM), the authors found that fathers tend to report a greater likelihood of providing emotional support to their children on those days when they experience overloads on the job as well as on days when they cut back their workload. The amount of time that fathers spent with their children was found to be moderated by how much control or latitude they have at work. Thus, the authors conclude, however, quantity of time alone may not impact the quality of the fathering experience.

Pointing out that paternal role identity is related to fathering strategies, Bronte-Tinkew, Carrano and Guzman (2006) argue that it is important to determine how fathers identify themselves as parents by examining their perceptions of themselves as fathers. Hence, they investigated resident fathers’ perception of their roles in the lives of their children and how this affect their involvement with infants in five areas: caregiving activities, paternal warmth, nurturing activities, physical care, and providing their child with cognitively stimulating activities. A total of 6,270 questionnaires completed by 6,949 fathers were used in the study. Most of the resident fathers believe that their role as fathers play an important part in their children’s development. Most of the fathers were not highly involved in cognitively stimulating activities such as reading with their children. Most fathers were found, however, to be highly involved in providing physical care. The fathers’ sociodemographic characteristics (race, marital status, education, and socioeconomic status) impact their perceptions of fathering (e.g., Hispanics and other race fathers had significantly lower positive perceptions of their roles compared to other participants). Married fathers had higher scores that unmarried fathers. Fathers living above the poverty line having significantly higher scores that those living below the poverty line. Fathers who have infant sons had stronger belief in the importance of their roles and paternal involvement. The latter finding is supported by Schock and Gavazzi (2005) who found that fathers of adolescent daughters face challenges when communicating with their adolescent daughters, which is a factor in their indecision about how to deal with the problematic behavior of their daughters.

Findings by Wilson, Dalberth and Koo (2010) support and further illuminate the findings of Schock and Gavazzi (2005) and Bronte-Tinkew, Carrano and Guzman (2006) regarding the manner and degree to which fathers become involved in the lives of their daughters. The authors investigated 131 fathers’ perspectives on their role in protecting their pre-teenage children from sexual risk. A semistructured guide was used to determine parents’ perceptions about the sexual risks children are confronted with and factors influencing their communication with their children about sex. The results indicated that while fathers take a strong role in keeping their children safe and successful, some did not talk with their children about sex; others discussed the issue frequently and openly. Almost all of the fathers agreed that the perspectives of fathers regarding the issue of sex are important for children to hear. At the same time, the gender of the preteenager and teenager impacted fathers’ perception of their comfort level in discussing sexual matters. Fathers felt that they were better suited to discuss topics such as male puberty than female topics such as menstruation. Race also played a factor, with Hispanic fathers reporting that they were more protective of their daughters than their sons.

That social and racial background affect fathering patterns regarding the sexuality of their daughters is corroborated by Gonzalez-Lopez (2004). The author conducted a study to examine the views of 20 immigrant Mexican men (with mean age of 38) in Los Angeles regarding their views on virginity as it concerns the education of their daughters in America. The men were asked “Would you like your daughter (s) to have sex before they get married? Why?” It was found that while the men while the men did not expect their daughters to pursue premarital sexual abstinence, the participants demanded sexual moderation from their daughter out of fear that urban communities are “sexually dangerous” (i.e., a high incidence of out of wedlock pregnancy, sexuality transmitted diseases, casual sex/promiscuity and sexual violence against women. Hence, the fathers believe that delaying sex and using protection are important for protecting their daughters from becoming pregnant and increasing their opportunities to attend and graduate from college. In sum, the perceptions of the fathers regarding their daughter’s virginity were influenced by regional views on patriarchy and masculinity as well as by being socioeconomically segregated into inner-city barrios.

Significance

Over the last two decades, researchers have begun to pay more attention to the idea that fathers make important contributions to child development. This is due in part to several factors, including the increase in the number of dual-earning families, the availability of affordable and quality healthcare, the women’s movement, and studies in developmental psychology, sociology and family and gender. These changes have caused a shift in the society’s expectations of father as well as the nature of fatherhood and the impact of fathers providing nurturing care (Parke, 2004; Davis & Perkins, 1996). The emphasis on the role of the father in the 21st century is shaped by the realization that “fathers are clearly recognized as central players in the family and major contributors to children’s social, emotional and cognitive development” (Parke, 2004, p.456). The role of the father in the American family has changed significantly from being the primary breadwinner in the household to taking the more emotionally-involved role of co-parent. Contemporary fathers assume numerous roles in the family. These include providing companionship, caregiving, protecting, breadwinning, teaching, and serving as a role model.

Because modern fathers have become more involved in the lives of their children, they not only take on childcare responsibilities, but are expected to demonstrate parenting skills similar to mothers. At the same time, research on fathering is a new phenomenon. For example, it has been found that very little research has focused on father-child interactions in the home settings even though these observations are deemed essential in identifying successful and successful parenting skills and behavior among fathers (Davis & Perkins, 1996). Schock and Gavazzi (2005) observe that despite the expansion of fatherhood literature over the last several decades, not much is understood about the role of fathers in their relationship with problematic adolescents. This is due in part methodological challenges such as placing emphasis on middle-class, well-educated, White, intact family households (Davis & Perkins, 1996; Borkowski et al, 2008; Bronte-Tinkew, Carrano & Guzman, 2006).

One area that is has not been fully explored in the literature is the relationship between paternal role identity and fathering outcomes. Maurer (2007) suggests that father’s perception of societal fathering roles is a good predictor of fathers’ behaviors. Nicholson, Howard and Borkowski (2008) identify the availability of positive parenting role models as a factor in fathers’ ability to display metaparenting skills (responding, preventing, monitoring, mentoring, and modeling). Newland, Coyle and Freeman (2008) found that parenting and co-parenting behaviors in fathers were predictors of child attachment security. Schock and Gavazzi (2005) suggest that a lack of secure attachment between fathers and their daughters lead to communication barriers and indecision about how to address problematic behaviors in their teenage daughters. Bronte-Tinkew, Carrano and Guzman (2006) found that higher positive perception of fathering roles were associated with high father involvement in the cognitive activities with their children such as reading. Wilson, Dalberth and Koo (2010) found that fathers while fathers generally take a strong role in keeping their children safe and successful, most shy away from discussing sexual matters, especially with their daughters. Bronte-Tinkey et al (2006) examined the role of paternal perception of their roles in the lives of their children and its impact on their infants in five areas: caregiving activities, paternal warmth, nurturing activities, physical care, and providing their child with cognitively stimulating activities. The findings indicate that fathers who perceive themselves as taking a direct role in the lives of their children tended to provide more physical care. Less emphasis was placed on cognitive developmental activities.

Purpose

The goal of the current study was to expand on the study by Bronte-Tinkey et al (2006) by examining children’s perception of their father’s metaparenting skills in relation to fathering role identity. Hence, the purpose of the study was to determine the relationship between paternal role identity and fathering outcomes by linking fathers’ metaparenting beliefs and behaviors with their preteenage and teenage children’s perception of fathering roles in their lives.

Research Question

This study was guided by the following question: What is the relationship between paternal role identity and fathering outcomes? The independent variables related to father involvement were cognitively stimulating activities, physical care, paternal warmth, nurturing activities, caregiving activities.

Hypothesis

It was hypothesized that metaparenting beliefs and attitude in fathers would be positively correlated to children’s perception of fathering roles. Therefore, it was theorized that children who have a positive view of their fathers’ parenting role in their lives would be likely to have fathers who rate their metaparenting beliefs and behaviors positively. The reverse would also be true: children would have a negative perception of the role of their fathers in their lives if they have fathers with negative metaparenting beliefs and behaviors. The basic premise here was that men who regard themselves strongly as being a father and regard their parental role as important for the development of their children would be more likely to be actively involved in their children’s lives than are men who have a lower perception of the importance of their roles as fathers (Bronte-Tinkey et al (2006).

Methodology

Sample

The convenience sample for this study included 25 fathers and their pre-teen and teenage children. Fathers ranged in age from 18-65 years and children ranged in age from 11-16 years. Fathers and children were excluded from the study if the family was going through significant upheavals or if there were confounding factors such as marital divorce, child custody proceedings, parental antagonism, and abuse proceedings. These exclusion criteria were considered important because they could potentially influence the authenticity of the results. For example, marital divorce and other problems may lead to deep-seated resentment that can skew self-reported fathering perceptions and fathering relationships.

Setting

The setting for the current study included both the home and school. Fathers were students at a four-year college in Queens, New York. They were interviewed at school through semi-structured in-person interviews or telephone interviews. The children participated in the study through interviews conducted with their schools’ guidance counselors.

Procedure

The parents were contacted with a letter informing them about the nature and purpose of the study and that it has been validated by the Institutional Review Board. They were told that their participation in the study was optional and that the goal of study was to learn more about the fathering strategies of Americans. They were also told that the information they provide would be confidential, discarded, and would in no way be linked to their names in the final report. Their informed consent was also obtained for their child to participate in the study. The specific manner in which their child would participate as well as the questionnaire they would complete with their school’s guidance counselor were also discussed with and given to the fathers.

Data Collection Method

The independent variable was perception of the fathering role. This study did not investigate the influence of demographic variables of the father such as marital status, race/ethnicity, age, education level, employment status and poverty status’ or child demographic variables such as gender. The reason for this was that a number of researchers have examined the link between fathering attitudes based on these factors (Gonzalez-Lopez, 2004; Bronte-Tinkew et al, 2006; Newland, Coyle and Freeman, 2008). The goal of this study was to link fathering perception to fathering outcomes.

The children were asked to complete a Fathering Relationship Questionnaire (see Appendix) in which they rated their relationship with their fathers on a scale of 0-4 (0=Never, 1=Not Often, 2=Sometimes, 3=Often, 4=Always) on questions assessing five areas of parental care outcomes (caregiving activities, paternal warmth, nurturing activities, physical care, and providing their child with cognitively stimulating activities). The use of open-ended interview questions for the children was avoided so that fathers feel comfortable with their children participating in the study. Fathers may be less inclined to participate in the study if they believe that their children may be asked open-ended questions about their fathering relationship. The fathers completed both a Fathering Role Perception Survey (see Appendix) and a semi-structured interview with open-ended questions that were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. These instruments were used to assess their metaparenting beliefs and behaviors (responding, preventing, monitoring, mentoring and modeling). The Fathering Role Perception Survey consisted of 7 items adapted from the Role of the Father Questionnaire (ROFQ; Palkovitz, 1984), the goal of which was to determine the extent to which a parent thinks that a fathers’ role is important to the development of a child. The fathers rated questions about their perceived role of the father on a scale of 0-3 (0=strongly agreed, 1=agreed, 2=disagreed, 3=strongly disagreed). The responses by the fathers and children were crossed checked and compared using letters of the alphabet from A-Y. For example, Father A was matched to Child A, and Father B was matched to Father B, and so forth.

Data Analysis Method

The information obtained from the Father Role Perception Survey was coded for themes about fathering role identity. These themes were used to identify individual fathering role identity, which was also cross-checked with the information provided in the semi-structured interview and to match each father to responses provided in the Fathering Relationship Questionnaire. This information was used to test Bronte-Tinkey et al’s (2006) observation that paternal role identity is related to fathering strategies. Ultimately, this information was used to determine whether metaparenting beliefs and attitude in fathers are positively correlated to children’s perception of fathering roles.

Results

A total of 375 father responses from the Fathering Role Perception Survey and the semi-structure interview were compared with 400 child responses from the Fathering Relationship Questionnaire. Three themes were obtained from the Fathering Role Perception Survey: the playful father, fathers as providers and the emotional fathers. The survey found that 58.3% (14.6) fathers strongly agreed or agreed with basic metaparenting beliefs, while 41.7% (10.42) disagreed or strongly agreed with these metaparenting beliefs. However, several important variations in terms of father role perception were identified. Most of the fathers (88%) believed that it is important for fathers to spend time playing with their children. Little more than half of the fathers (52%) disagreed with the belief that is it difficult for fathers to openly express affection to their children, while most (76%) disagreed that fathers should be heavily involved as the mother in the care of the child. The same amount of fathers (76%) agreed that “the activities that a father does with his child do not matter, what matters is that he provides for the child. Most of the participants (88%) felt that giving their child encouragement and support was not one of the most important roles of a father.

Fathering Role Perception Survey

Mataparenting Beliefs

Father’s Responses

Strongly Agreed

Agreed

Disagreed

Strongly Disagreed

It is essential for the child’s well-being that fathers spend time playing with their children

15

7

3

0

It is difficult for men to express affectionate feelings toward children

7

5

11

2

A father should be heavily involved as the mother in the care of the child

3

3

13

6

The way a father treats his baby has a long-term effect on the child

7

8

10

0

The activities that a father does with his child do not matter, what matters is that he provides for the child.

5

14

3

3

One of the most important things that a father can do is give the child encouragement and support

0

3

14

8

All things considered, fatherhood is a highly rewarding experience

9

16

0

0

Semi-Structured Interview

Activities with Child

Father’s Responses

Always

Sometimes

Never

Caregiving

6

16

3

Providing Warmth

6

17

2

Nurturing

3

7

15

Providing Physical Care

4

10

11

Providing Stimulating Activities

5

8

12

The children’s perceptions of their fathers in five metaparenting skill areas were assessed: caregiving activities, provision paternal warmth, nurturing, physical care, and cognitive/stimulating activities. Most of the children (85%) reported that their fathers provided caregiving (e.g., go for walks, talk about problems, understand problems) not often or not at all compared to 25% (3.75) who stated that their fathers engage in caregiving activities with them sometimes, often or always. Most of the respondents said that their father never (36%) or seldom (49%) engage in caregiving activities. Only 14% (3.5) and 1% (.25) respectively, said that their father sometimes or often engage in caregiving. None of the participant indicated that their father “always” provide caregiving. In the area of personal warmth (e.g., hug, romps, tickles) 74.5% (18.7) of the respondents indicated that their fathers engaged in paternal warmth. However, there were variations in terms of the frequency with which paternal warmth were experienced by the respondents: not often (21.2%), sometimes (40%), often (34.8%), always (12%) and never (4%). Most (70.4%) of the participants reported that their fathers never or infrequently engage in nurturing activities (e.g., doctor visits, provide care during sickness, soothes when upset) compared to 27.6% who reported feeling nurtured by their father sometimes, often or always. Different frequencies of nurturing experiences were reported by the participants: 1.32% felt that their fathers always nurtured them that their fathers always, 9.2% (often) and 17.2% (sometimes), 29.2 (not often), (41.2% (never). Most of the respondents (68%) reported that their fathers always provided physical care, but most of the respondents saw physical care in terms of their fathers making them feel safe (92%). Only 12% said that their fathers always prepare their meals. Most of the participants (65%) reported that their fathers have never engaged in cognitive and stimulating activities (reading to them, telling stories, helping with school work or taking them to interesting places). Only one (4%) of the participants indicated that their fathers engaged in cognitive/stimulating activities often; none said always, 17% said not often, and 14% said sometimes.

Children’s Perception of Fathering Role

Children’s Perception of Fathering Role

Frequency

Never

Not Often

Sometimes

Often

Always

Caregiving Activities

Father takes me for a walk

16

7

2

0

0

Father takes me on errands

8

13

3

1

0

Father talks with me about my problems

6

15

4

0

0

Father tries to understand/help me with my problems

6

14

5

0

0

Paternal Warmth

Father hugs me

3

4

12

2

4

Father romps with me

0

2

5

13

5

Father tickles me

0

10

13

2

0

Nurturing

Father takes me to the doctor

19

5

1

0

0

Father soothes me when I am upset

3

8

9

4

1

Father cares for me when I am sick

9

10

3

3

0

Physical Care

Father prepares my meals

6

9

6

1

3

Father makes me feel safe

0

0

2

0

23

Cognitive and Stimulating Activities

Father reads to me

18

2

5

0

0

Father tells me stories

17

6

2

0

0

Father tries to help me with school work

21

1

3

0

0

Father takes me to interesting places

9

8

4

4

Discussion

This study examined the relationship between paternal role identity and fathering outcomes by comparing father

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