Monday, February 11, 2008

Research on Fatherhood

The following artilce comes from the Wisconsin Fathers organisation

Fathers' contribution to family and how their presence affects children have been reexamined in recent years. The increasing recognition that father absence has led to a variety of crippling social ills seems to be leading to a renewed appreciation of fathers' contributions to the emotional and developmental well-being of their children.

Politically, this is evidenced by President Clinton's Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies directing them to implement policies and procedures maximizing father involvement [1], Vice-President Gore's announcement of a Department of Education finding of fathers' contribution to children's educational achievement[2], the National Governor's Association resolution regarding Paternal Involvement in Child Rearing[3], the establishment of a U.S.. Commission on Child and Family Welfare, development of governors' conferences on fatherhood in several states, and the Congressional Fatherhood Initiative presently gathering steam in Congress.

Among researchers, the long-neglected male side of parenting is in vogue, leading to an increasing number of articles and conferences focusing on the short- and long-term effect on children of father absence. This is evidenced by the NIH Conference on Fatherhood held each year, eye-opening
studies by Sanford Braver[4], Kuhn & Guidubaldi[5], Horn & Bush[6], Christine Nord[7], and numerous others.

Are researchers and policy makers just discovering that children need a father's influence to develop into productive members of society? No.. Researchers and politicians[8] have long known that father absence leads down the path to a dysfunctional society. Child custody determinations and the assumptions made by judges and court personnel about fathers will
affect the well-being of millions of children. We present the following articles as a sampling of earlier research into the causes and results of children being raised in fatherless families, and of the parenting ability of fathers.

1) Effects of Father on the Educational Achievement of Urban Black Children

- (Child Study Journal - #1, 1975) by Frank J. Sciara, Ball State Univ.
(Sampling size = 300)

"... significant differences favoring the academic achievement of both boys
and girls from father present homes ..."

"Father absence had a much greater effect on ... boys and girls ... whose
... I.Q. was above 100."

2) Fatherhood : Contextural Variations

- (American Behavioural Scientist - Sept./Oct. 1985) by Shirley M. H.
Hanson, Ph.D., R.N., Chairperson, Dept. of Family Nursing, Oregon Health
Sciences University, Portland, Oregon

"... child development is enhanced by more father involvement ... there is
less sexism in the children."

"... househusbands are pioneers for a new society of alternatives for
family living."

"... single custodial fathers ... make conscientious efforts to be
expressive and physically affectionable with their children.'

"... the quality of father/child interaction ... quite good in these
households ... ."

"... are able to meet the emotional and nurturance needs of children."

"... fathers are more often required to pay child support than mothers are
in the same situation."

3) Father to Infant Attachment : Effects of Early Contact and
Characteristics of the Infant

- (Research in Nursing and Health - #4, 1981) by Colette Jones, Ph.D.,
Chair., Dept. of Primary Care,
School of Nursing, University of Maryland

Study of 51 dyads at 24-72 hours of age and at 1 month. Seems to indicate
that fathers and mothers interact with the boys and girls within the
context of stereotypes.

"The father plays an active an unique role in part in his child's

"Early contact (at birth) between fathers and infants appears to enhance
nonverbal communication at 1 month."

"... fathers participate in child care as much as the mother allows."

4) Can Men "Mother"? Life as a Single Father

- (Family Relations - Jan. 1986) by Barbara J. Risman, Professor of
Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State Univ.

[Sampling of 141 single fathers -- those who fought to get custody came out
exceptionally well.]

"... 4 out of 5 fathers did not rely on outside housekeeping help ... ."

"... the traditional assumption that children belong with their mothers
after divorce needs to be re-examined."

"... social workers and counselors employed in family court should be aware
that females do not necessarily make better mothers."

5) Single Father Caretakers : Demographic Characteristics and Adjustment

- (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry - April 1982) by Pi-Nian Chang,
Ph.D., and Amos S. Deinard, MD; Dept. of Pediatrics, University of
Minnesota, Minneapolis

[A study based on 80 fathers with custody. Of 275 contested custody cases,
fathers " won" 61 (22%) in that the father was awarded some form of custody
(joint, split, sole) but only 41 of these were sole custody (14.9% of the

"... fathers sought custody because of their love for their children and
their confidence in their parenting ability."

"... most of the fathers demonstrated satisfactory adjustment."

"... the presumption that the mother is the better parent .... and thus
better fit to be the custodial parent, has dominated most divorce hearings
and court decisions for the past 50 years."

"The societal attitude that fathers should be working regardless of the
presence of dependent children ... ."

" ... Single custodial mothers, on the other hand, have the option of
either working or staying home, either of which is condoned by society."

6) The Impact of Marital Separation/Divorce on Children

- Parent and Child Separation and Child Adjustment (Journal of Divorce -
Summer 1978) - by Doris S. Jacobson, Ph.D., Professor of School of Social
Welfare, University of California @ LA [30 families - 51 children]

[Part 1 of a 3 part study.]

"Findings indicate a statistically significant association between time
lost in the presence of the father and current adjustment. The more time
lost, the higher the maladjustment score."

"No significant association between time lost with mother and child
adjustment was found."

Of those families in the sample, "... in which custody had been decided by
the court, there was one family in which there was joint custody. In all
other cases, whether custody had or had not been determined by the court,
children lived with their mothers."

"... of a 6 year old boy who, when asked what the most difficult aspect of
his family situation was, responded tearfully, 'I miss my daddy.' He had
not seen his father for 2 months."

"... an 8 year old boy complained about the interference of the extended
family in allowing him to telephone his father. He had learned to put
through emergency calls to his father quickly when others were not around."

"... the direct impact on the child's psyche of reduced contact with the
father is an important factor to be considered in further research."

7) Infants of Primary Nurturing Fathers

- (The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child - Vol. 38, 1983) by Kyle D.
Pruett, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University

Studies of infants reared by fathers. The summary is illuminating:

"One of the more intriguing questions raised by the assessment of the
infants is why these babies are developing so well. Most of the babies
seemed to have a heightened appetite for novel experience and stimuli."

"... the father's role, even when not primary, has been vastly

8) Differences in Children's Behaviour Toward Custodial Mothers and
Custodial Fathers

- (Journal of Marriage and the Family - Feb. 1982) by Anne-Marie Ambert,
Department of Sociology,
York University, Toronto

[A study of 20 custodial mothers and 7 custodial fathers. Three main
findings: children had a better relationship with the fathers than with the
mothers; those in custody of fathers verbalized their appreciation more;
and children of low SES mothers were more dysfunctional that those of
higher SES mothers. In general, the fathers did better than even the high
SES mothers. Write expressed great difficulty in locating custodial fathers
anywhere -- especially on the lower SES scale In the cases studied,
apparently the father had to demonstrate greater assets in order to gain
custody. -- MHN]

"All but 1 of the fathers who sought custody had to contest it, while only
3 of the mothers had to contest it. ... 2 women had not wanted custody but
had had no choice, 1 father had deserted, and the other was mentally

"All fathers had at least 1 son, 3 had no daughters."

"... striking difference ... children's general behaviour .... ."

"Since most children are awarded to their mothers at separation, a
mother-headed family is the situation in the majority of cases. Yet these
same mothers, mainly those of lower SES, fared less well than the fathers."

"... mothers tend to be more restrictive and authoritarian in the first 2
years after separation."

9) Effects of Divorce on Children : Differential Impact of Custody and
Visitation Patterns

(Family Relations - Oct. 1985) by Lowery and Settle, Department of
Psychology, U. of Kentucky

[Examines problems with samples used in much of the published material -
concludes that joint custody will mitigate many of the problems with child
support payments and the child's emotional development. Focus is the
cumulative stress on the child rather than looking at divorce as a single
event in the child's life. Concludes that relationships among family
members do not end when divorce occurs, they are "... merely altered ... ."
- MHN]

"... fathers tended to move less after divorce than did mothers ... mothers
more often have custody of the children ... this means that the children
... not only loss the relative loss of the father from the home ... but the
loss of the home itself, ... neighborhood friends, and other familiar
surroundings. (DeFrain and Eirick, 1981)"

"Current patterns of custody, visitation, and child support show low
deviations from the traditional mother custody, bimonthly visitation with a
father who pays child support. This fact challenges any supposition that
arrangements are tailored to meet the specific needs of the particular
family. It is more logical to conclude that these decisions are made
according to fairly rigid, conventionalized standards that poorly
accommodate the variety of circumstances among individual families in
minimizing stressful situations." (several sources quoted)

"... duration of contact with the father was directly related to the
quality of the father-child relationship and, indirectly, to the child's

"... key factors ... insure that the father ... easy access to his children
and input into his children's lives, both of which are frequently denied
fathers in actual practice."

[Studies show that boys fare better in the custody of the father than the
mother -- severe problems otherwise.]

"... the mother may vent hostility toward the father on the son." [This
could be reflected in the high rate of child abuse in mother-headed single
parent families. -- MHN]

"Ample confirmation of the ability of custody fathers to function
competently in the role of primary caretaker ... "

"However, ... it is still highly infrequent for a father to receive custody
except under very unusual circumstances."

"... show better results for joint custody than sole custody."

"... relitigation rate for joint custody was half that for sole custody
(16% vs. 32%)."

10) Games Fathers and Mothers Play With Their Infants

- (Infant Mental Health Journal - Winter 1981) by Michael W. Yogman, M.D.,
Associate Chief of the Child Development Unit, Children's
Hospital Medical
, Boston, Mass. and The Harvard Medical School.

"... fathers as well as mothers can establish a direct social relationship
with their infants."

"In contrast to mothers, fathers more often engaged in limb movement games
in which their behaviour attempted to arouse the infant."

"Father's play ... more likely to be proximal, social, physical, arousing,
and briefer in duration, and fathers reported that they enjoyed it more
than mothers. Infants at 8 months responded more positively to play with
fathers than mothers and at 2 1/2 yrs. of age not only preferred to play
with fathers but were judged to be more involved and excited with them."
(This style contrasts to mothers' which seems to be oriented toward
care-giving and to playing structured games. The fathers choose to
stimulate the infants more, as reported in other studies. - MHN)

11) Childrearing Fathers in Intact Families, II : Israel and the USA

- (Merrill-Palmer Quarterly - Jan. 1982) by Norma Radin, University of
Michigan, and Abraham Sagi, University of Haifa

"... in both countries (USA & Israel) the child's internality was
positively related with paternal involvement in childcare."

"... that children reared in nontraditional families will manifest more
internality than their peers in traditional homes."

"... both social learning theory and reciprocal role theory suggest that
youngsters in families where fathers are primary caregivers will adopt
non-sextyped perceptions of mothers and fathers."

"... children reared in homes where fathers have a major role in their
upbringing, tend to be more internal, more empathetic, and hold less
stereotyped views of paternal role."

"... considerable father presence is associated with an internal locus of
control of children."

12) Joint Versus Maternal Custody for Families With Latency Age Boys :
Parent Characteristics With Child Adjustment

- (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry - July 1986) by Virginia M. Shiller,
PhD, Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy, Yale University
(Study involved boys aged 6 - 11, 1 - 6 years after divorce : 20 joint
physical custody families and 20 maternal custody)

"According to rating made by parents and teachers, boys in joint custody
had fewer behavioral difficulties than their maternal custody counterparts."

"... fewer emotional and behavioral problems ... ."

"... classroom adjustment ... superior ... ."

13) Parent-Child Interaction and the Acquisition of Lexical Information
During Play

- (Developmental Psychology - Vol. 16, #5 - 1980) by Elise Frank Masur,
Department of Psychology,
Northern Illinois University , and Jean Berko
Boston University (supported by a National Science Foundation
grant) and several others

"Fathers were also more cognitively and linguistically demanding..."

"Children, in turn, produced more total vocabulary to fathers than to

"... suggests a strategy of attempting to maximize the language performance
of all children, and particularly the younger ones who might require more
direct prompting."

"The effectiveness of the fathers' behavior is demonstrated ... ."

14) Single Parent Fathers : A New Study

- (Children Today - May/June 1978) by Harry Finklestein Keshet, Ph.D.,
Research Assoc., Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, Director,
Resource and Mediation Center, Cambridge, Mass., and Kristine M. Rosenthal,
Ed.D., Professor, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University (sample size
of 49 divorced or separated fathers with formal or informal custody)

[Boston area fathers --- 1/2 were legally divorced. Majority highly
educated. -- MHN]

Quotes E. E. Master,

"... failure of marriage likely to mean loss of child custody for fathers.
Most men do not seek custody and those that do may experience sex role bias
on the part of the judiciary."

"Over 90% ... frequently performed the homemaking functions of ... ."

"... fathers in our sample were very active in all the aspects of parenting
that we explored."

"... fathers even protected their children from the influence of other

"The bond between parent and child became a new focal point ... ."

"... limited work and social activities to meet the needs of their children
... ."

"... restructuring their daily lives in order to care directly for their
dependent children."

15) Father-Infant Relationships : Their Nature and Importance

- (Youth and Society - March 1978) by Michael E. Lamb, Department of Human
Growth and Development, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan,
and Marguerite B. Stevenson, Department of Psychology, University of

[A critique of the literature dealing with father and mother interaction
with infants and toddlers, including Lamb's own work. Draws conclusions
from same.-- MHN]

"Fathers are more likely to play in physically stimulating and
unconventional games."

"... older infants directed more attachment behaviors to their fathers than
to their mothers when observed at home."

"The types of play that fathers choose are those that infants enjoy most
... ."

16) Disciplinary Encounters Between Young Boys and Their Mothers and
Fathers : Is There a Contingency System?

- (Developmental Psychology - Vol. 15, # 3 - 1979) by Hugh Lyton,
Department of Educational Psychology, University of Calgary, Alberta

"The mother's tendency to engage in relatively more control actions, and
the child's tendency to show rather less compliance to her than to the
father ... ."

17) Yours, Mine, or Ours? : Child Custody Decisions

- (Childhood Education - Sept./Oct. 1984) by Betty Spillers Beeson,
Professor and Coordinator of Early Childhood Education, Ball State University

A 5* rating for joint custody.


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