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Father Involvement Research 2008: Conference

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  • Conference Report (pdf 131kb)
    by John Hoffman
    This document is a report on the conference Father Involvement 2008, hosted by FIRA in Toronto from October 22 - 24, 2008. The report includes synopses of the five keynote addresses along with a description of themes covered in breakout sessions (with examples) and conference statistics.

  • Why Does Father Involvement Promote Child and Adolescent Development:Addressing an Under Theorized Issue (Keynote Address) (ppt 904kb)
    by Dr. Joe Pleck
    Supporting the fatherhood practitioner community's work to encourage father involvement, fatherhood scholars in recent years have made important theoretical advances. In addition, researchers have used increasingly sophisticated designs to document the benefits of great father involvement for children, in particular showing that father involvement has effects independent of mother involvement. However, missing in both recent theoretical advances and empirical research is progress on the most under-theorized issue concerning father involvement today: exactly why father involvement does or should promote development. This paper critically analyzes four theoretical perspectives, used explicitly or implicitly in current work, about the processes of paternal influence: attachment theory, essential father theory, Bronfenbrenner ecological theory with its concept of proximal process and social capital theory. The promise that attachment theory holds for the conceptualization of paternal influence is limited to the rather small attachment research community. Essential father theory is widely accepted by the lay public and even among professionals, but empirical support for fathers making an essential and unique contribution to development is at present quite weak. Bronfenbrenner's concept of proximal process and the social capital framework provide the best available foundation for theory about exactly how fathering promotes, or does not promote, development. The paper concludes by developing an integrated, ecological-parental capital, theory of paternal influences on development. In developing this integrated theory, the paper addresses how practitioners can best provide strong support for greater father involvement without making essentialist assumptions about fathers' unique contributions.

  • It Takes A Village (Exploring the Role of Otherfathers in African Communities in the Diaspora) (ppt 840kb)
    by Wanda Thomas Bernard
    Whilst we see much in the literature about the role of Black mothers in raising their sons, there is little written about the role of fathers. Furthermore, much of what is found often pathologizes and marginalizes the experiences of Black men, especially fathers. In addition to systemic racism, the most significant impact on the psyche of Black men within the last 20 years has been the distortion and misrepresentation of Black men and ‘blackness’ within the mass media. It is within this genre of information gathering, assumption making and information sharing that the images of Black men as fathers gets scripted and distorted. This new linear narrative of Black masculinity then becomes the normative view of Black men and fathers, a view that often gets internalized by members of the Black community, especially Black adolescents. This keynote address challenges many of those assumptions, through an examination of the role of Black fathers, otherfathers and community fathers in African communities in the Diaspora. Using a reflective analysis of data gathered in several projects about Black fathers, this keynote will share ideas on the significance of otherfathers in Black communities. Highlighting the challenges and successes, from the perspectives of Black sons, we will hear about the role of fathers and otherfathers in these men’s lives, focusing on stories these men told about their fathers and their experiences with other men in their lives. I assert that otherfathers and community fathers are a critical component for healthy parenting in African-Canadian communities and for building capacity in those communities.

  • Fathering in the Early Years (How Family Physicians Can Help) (ppt 219kb)
    by William Watson
    An increasing amount of research indicates the importance of fathers in their children’s intellectual, emotional and social development in the early years from birth to six years of age. At the same time, there are few programs to assist fathers to develop their parenting skills. Fathers are often unaware of the importance of their regular contact with their child. Community-based programs are limited to English-speaking fathers whose children were between one and six years of age but pilot programs have now been developed with the many multicultural communities, especially recent immigrants. Several of the language programs now invite mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers to attend because grandparents often provide parenting to their grandchildren when both parents are in the work force. The Focus on Fathers programs for fathers of children from birth to six years of age were set up in 1999 because of the content of programs includes topics such as attachment, unexpected illness and disability, postpartum depression, effective parenting, dealing with anger, conflict resolution and problem solving. The goals of this workshop include: To review the evidence on the importance 1. of fathers in child development. To network with other family physicians 2. on the topic of the challenges of involving fathers child rearing and healthy families. To have an open interactive discussion 3. on fathers’programs across Canada, including the focus on fathers program.

  • Paternal Engagement in Sudanese and Russian Newcomer Families (Paper Presentation) (ppt 1.69Mb)
    by David Este
    Immigrant and refugee male adults come to Canada with multiple identities, one of which may be being a father. Until very recently, research on refugee and immigrant men as fathers is quite limited in the Canadian context. Through a qualitative research study involving in-depth interviews with 20 Sudanese refugee and 14 Russian immigrant men in a large urban centre in Canada, this paper examines their perceptions and experiences as fathers. Insights on the meaning of fatherhood, values that guide their behaviour, their aspirations for and interactions with their children and the challenges they face as fathers in Canadian society form the specific content that will be presented. Implications for human service providers such as social work practitioners will also be discussed.

  • Understanding the Roots of Mothers' Expectations for Fathers (pdf 1.22Mb)
    by Candice Wilson
    Although research in areas of father involvement, maternal gate-keeping and transition to parenthood all appear to agree that maternal beliefs and expectations are important predictors of paternal involvement in the home; there seems to be little research looking at where mothers' beliefs and expectations for fathers originate. Through interviews with new mothers, this study develops a model for understanding how maternal expectations develop, identifying two forms of mothers' expectations: Expressed Expectations and Enacted Expectations. The Expressed Expectations are influenced by Socio- Cultural Influences, while the Enacted Expectations are more in line with Family of Origin Influences. This model begins to explain why women may express one expectation and then react in a contradictory way when fathers act on those expressions. The model also indicates that the impact of immigration and acculturation can alter mothers' enacted expectations to be more closely aligned with the socio-cultural influences of the country to which they have immigrated rather than their family of origin.

  • Men and Mothering. (Paper based on Andrea Doucet's qualitative study of primary caregiver fathers.) (pdf 384kb)
    by Andrea Doucet
    This paper summarizes the salient findings and implications from Andrea Doucet's major qualitative study of primary caregiver fathers (stay-home fathers and single fathers) which are explored in greater detail in Dr. Doucet's book Do Men Mother? In this paper Dr. Doucet challenges the notion that the nurturing care that fathers engage in can or should be referred to as "mothering" and argues that mens' contributions to parenting will not be understood fully if looked at only through a maternal lens.

  • Outreach to Prospective and New Indigenous Young Fathers Using Comic Book Print Media (ppt 240kb)
    by Denise Hodgins
    This presentation outlines the need to develop special resources for supporting young Indigenous fathers and proposes a concept for a comic book resource for communicating key messages about fatherhood to young indigenous men. The presentation shows how comic books have been used effectively in suicide, gambling and diabetes prevention with aboriginal youth. The proposed project, which is currently seeking funding, would also include a resource guide to support the use of the comic book by community workers, teachers and health care professionals.

  • Children with Special Needs: Unpacking How Mothers and Fathers Parent (Paper Presentation) (ppt 754kb)
    by Ted McNeill
    This presentation, intended primarily for clinicians and researchers, summarizes a program of research aimed at providing an in-depth understanding of mothers and fathers'experiences of caring for a child with a chronic health condition or disability. An exploration of their experiences as individuals will be presented followed by an examination of how mothers and fathers co-construct their parenting relationship together. Based on a diverse sample, a model will be analyzed and implications for teaching and clinical practice will be discussed.

  • Maintaining Paternal Relationships After Separation (Paper Presentation) (ppt 156kb)
    by Gilles Tremblay
    Les ruptures d'unions touchent un menage sur deux. Pres de la moitié des pères non gardiens au Canada perdent rapidement tout contact significatif avec leurs enfants. À partir du discours de pères séparé vivant en contexte de pauvreté et qui se considèrent comme engagés envers leur enfant, sont étudiés les éléments ayant favorisé le maintien de leur engagement et les stratégies déployées dans un contexte adverse. Des mères séparés vivant aussi en contexte de pauvreté, non appariées aux pères, ont également été interrogées sur ce sujet. L'étude visait à comprendre ce que représentait pour ces mères la notion de père engagé aprés la rupture. L'analyse révèle en outre comment se construit leur influence en vue de la continuité de l'engagement du père et comment elle se manifeste au quotidien? Parmi les résultats, émerge le besoin d'approfondir l'étude de l'engagement paternel en contexte de violence conjugale. Les enjeux émergeant du discours des pères et des mères sur le maintien de l'engagement paternel aprés la rupture seront présent√s et discutés au cours de la conference. Separations affect one in two households. Almost half of all fathers in Canada who do not have custody of their children quickly lose all meaningful contact with them. Based on the views of separated fathers living in poverty who consider themselves to be involved in their children's lives, the factors encouraging the maintenance of relationships and the strategies employed in adverse circumstances were studied. Separated mothers living in poverty, who were not the ex-partners of the fathers interviewed, were also questioned on this subject. One of the aims of the study was to understand what the concept of a father being involved after a separation meant to these mothers. The analysis also revealed how they influenced the father's continuous involvement and how this could be seen in everyday life. It emerged in the findings that a more detailed study of paternal relationships in the context of domestic violence was needed. The issues that arose from the interviews with fathers and mothers regarding the maintenance of paternal relationships after a separation will be presented and discussed during the conference.

  • Paternal Responsibility and Parenting After Divorce (Paper Presentation) (ppt 93kb)
    by Edward Kruk
    The focus of this paper is the determination of child custody when parents cannot agree on post-separation parenting arrangements, and negotiation efforts have failed in this regard. The paper will critically examine the viability of a rebuttable legal presumption of shared parenting responsibility, applying a social analytical perspective to the Canadian child custody debate. It will be argued that the responsibilities of social institutions to support parents in the fulfillment of their parenting responsibilities is a largely overlooked issue in the debate; in this regard, the problem of fathers who wish to maintain an active role in the care of their children and are discouraged from doing so as non-residential parents, must be considered. A child-focused framework of child custody determination focused on children's needs, parental responsibilities in regard to these needs, and social institutional responsibilities to support parents in the fulfillment of their parental responsibilities may offer a fresh approach to the issue, beyond the dominant rights-based child custody discourse. A four pillar framework to child custody determination will be discussed, which incorporates prevention (shared parenting education), treatment (parenting plans, mediation, and intervention in high conflict cases), harm reduction (a rebuttable legal presumption of shared parental responsibility), and enforcement (judicial determination in cases of established abuse).27 father involvement research 2008 conference |

  • Supporting Fathers Affected by PPD (Paper Presentation) (ppt 514kb)
    by Nicole Letourneau
    presentation objectives: Qualitative results from a multi-site pilot study that assessed fathers' support needs, resources, barriers to support and preferences for support intervention when their partner was ill with postpartum depression (ppd) will be presented. The pilot research will be supplemented with expert advice from an experienced professional caregiver who works with fathers affected by ppd. Moreover, a father whose partner was affected by ppd, will share his experiences as both a father and a mental health professional. context: ppd is a major health problem for many women, affecting 1 in 7 women, and characterized by the disabling symptoms of dysphoria, emotional lability, insomnia, confusion, significant anxiety, guilt, and suicidal ideation. Only recently have the implications of ppd for fathers come to light. A quarter to a half of depressed mothers' partners are men who also experience depression, making ppd the most potent predictor of paternal depression. While fathers are regarded as important sources of support for mothers with ppd, research has not been found that explored fathers' support needs for coping with their partners' ppd. Pilot study: Individual interviews were conducted with 13 fathers (7 in NB and 6 in AB) whose marital partners suffered from ppd. Findings suggest that fathers are unsure of how to identify ppd, how to support their partners when they are experiencing ppd, and feel excluded from treatment. Implications: Implications of the pilot for support-intervention programs and policy will be discussed by an affected father and an expert clinician from personal and professional perspectives. 30 father involvement research 2008 conference |

  • Manufacturing Ghost Fathers (Workshop) (ppt 3.95Mb)
    by Susan Strega
    Although there is much talk about the involved father in popular culture, men (including birth/biological fathers, stepfathers and men who provide emotional, financial or social support to children) continue to be curiously absent from child welfare work. In this workshop, we summarize our investigations into child welfare practices, policies and discourse concerning fathers whose children come to the attention of child welfare authorities. We analysed child welfare files, reviewed child welfare and related policies, conducted individual interviews with fathers and focus group interviews with child protection social workers. In common with previous researchers (Featherstone, 2003; Risley-Curtiss & Heffernan, 2003; Scourfield, 2003), we found that child welfare often fails to engage purposefully with men, either as risks or as assets, while continuing to hold mothers responsible for most aspects of family functioning. Our research results demonstrate how existing child welfare policies, education and professional practices contribute to this situation. Specific learning objectives for the workshop include: understanding the gender, class and race biases that underpin father absence and mother blame in child welfare; and exploring strategies (in child welfare practice, policy and education contexts) for engaging more purposefully and constructively with fathers and father-figures. Featherstone, B. (2003) Taking fathers seriously. British Journal of Social Work, 33(2), 239-254. Risley-Curtiss, C. & Heffernan, K. (2003) Gender biases in child welfare. Affilia, 18(4), 395-410. Scourfield, J. (2003) Gender and Child Protection. Palgrave MacMillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke

  • The Generative Legacy of Fathering (Paper Presentation) (ppt 55kb)
    by Jessica Ball
    In this paper, Erikson's (1950) and McAdams's (2001) ideas about generativity, defined as care and concern for the next generation as a legacy of the self, are used to consider themes of fathering goals and purpose in a sample of Indigenous and other fathers. The idea of legacy here draws together a sense of passing on the heritage of the past and of making progress toward a better future for the child. Based on an open-coding approach, we use fira thematic interview data, including nearly 200 cases (30 from Indigenous fathers), to examine themes of: concern for the child's long-term future, cultural legacy and personal and generational progress, and audience validation for the effectiveness of the father's parenting. Indigenous fathers articulated clear long-term concerns for the child's future. Progress encompassed subthemes of hopes for the child's future relative to the father's current situation, comparisons of the father's own parenting and that which he experienced growing up, and a sense of generational change in community strength. Audiences that supported the father's sense of efficacy in childrearing included the self, child, family, and community. We show how themes of future concern, progress and regard in interviews with Indigenous fathers are parallel as well as somewhat distinctive from those with fathers of other fira clusters. Ultimately, we highlight the clarity of these feelings of care for the future of the child in Indigenous fathers, and what that says about generativity and the meaning of legacy within the context of Indigenous fathering.

  • Paternal Involvement With Special Needs Children (Paper Presentation) (ppt 108kb)
    by Emily Furst
    The involvement of fathers with their special needs children is the focus of this project. Father role salience and role satisfaction are hypothesized to mediate the relationship between family socioeconomic status and father involvement. This process is investigated among 144 fathers of special needs children who participated in an evaluation of Tennessee's Early Intervention System (TEIS). TEIS provides services to families with special needs children under the age of three. The children in the sample were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome, developmental delays, and speech and/or hearing delays. Because of the source of the data, the researchers were able to obtain fathers' sense of empowerment as a result of their participation in the project. Therefore this project presents the opportunity to examine how empowerment may uniquely affect the processes of father involvement. Specifically, we will investigate whether empowerment has an additive or interactive effect along with socioeconomic status on men's involvement with their children. The researchers hypothesized that families with higher socioeconomic status would report a greater sense of empowerment in knowing how to help their children and advocate for their needs. The researchers also hypothesized that the greater sense of empowerment fathers report, the more satisfied men will be with their role as a father and the more involved fathers will be with their special needs children in a variety of tasks. This project is in the early stages of data analysis, but will be completed by September of 2008.


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