Perceived Paternal Acceptance, Paternal Involvement, and Youths' Psychological Adjustment in a Rural, Biracial Southern Community

Article excerpt

This study explores whether fathers' involvement by itself is associated with youths' psychological adjustment or whether the relationship between fathers' involvement and youths' psychological adjustment is mediated by children's perceptions of fathers' acceptance-rejection. A secondary purpose is to explore ethnic and class differences in paternal involvement, perceived paternal acceptancerejection, and youths' psychological adjustment. The research is based on a proportional, stratified, random sample of 21 Black and 37 White fathers and their 63 children. Results of multiple regression analyses indicate that only perceived paternal acceptance is significantly related to Black and White children's psychological adjustment. Fathers' involvement by itself is significantly related to neither Black nor White children's psychological adjustment. Finally, results indicate that parenting and psychological adjustment are not related significantly to social class.

Key Words: children's psychological adjustment, father involvement, paternal acceptance-rejection.

Since the early 1980s, a substantial body of research concerned with father-child relationships has focused on fathers' involvement in child care. For example, scholars have focused on the amount of time fathers spend with their children, fathers' day-to-day supervising of their children, playing with their children, feeding their children, educating their children, and disciplining their children (Ahmeduzzaman & Roopnarine, 1992; Ishii-Kuntz, 1994; Pleck, 1983, 1997; Radin, 1981; Williams & Radin, 1993).

Today many scholars argue that fathers must become actively involved in childrearing in order to ensure healthy child development (Biller, 1993; Blankenhorn, 1995; Hawkins, Christiansen, & Pond-Sargent, 1993; McBride & Darragh, 1995; Popenoe, 1996). In support of this argument, researchers have pointed to the positive influence of father involvement on the cognitive and intellectual development of White American children (Radin, 1981; Radin, Williams, & Coggins, 1993), on their academic achievement (Radin, 1981; Radin & Russell, 1983; Williams & Radin, 1993), their ability to empathize and their gender-role orientation (Radin, 1981; Radin & Sagi, 1982), their psychological adjustment (Reuter & Biller, 1973), their internal locus of control (Radin, 1981; Radin & Sagi, 1982), and their competency at problem-solving tasks (Easterbrooks & Goldberg, 1984). On the other hand, paternal noninvolvement (often defined as father absence) has been linked to psychological maladjustment, behavioral disorders, and educational problems (Biller,1981, 1993; Osherson,1986).

Some of this research has been criticized because it fails to control for the influence of qualitative aspects of the father-child relationship such as parental warmth and support (Lamb, 1987,1997; Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989; Pleck, 1997). That is, caring for one's children is not necessarily the same thing as caring about them. Indeed, many scholars argue that qualitative factors such as paternal warmth, support, or nurturance are more important for children's development than factors such as the simple amount of time fathers spend in child care (Lamb, 1987, 1997; Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989; Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, & Levine, 1987; Pleck, 1997; Shulman & Collins, 1993). However, despite the fact that most researchers who investigate paternal involvement mention the importance for children's development of qualitative behaviors (Lamb et al., 1987; Radin & Goldsmith, 1985; Radin & Harold-Goldsmith, 1989; Radin & Russell, 1983; Radin et al., 1993; Williams & Radin, 1993; Williams, Radin, & Allegro, 1992), few studies have explored concurrently the direct and indirect effects on youths' functioning of fathers' involvement and fathers' warmth. Consequently, it is not known whether fathers' involvement by itself is associated with youths' psychological adjustment or whether the relationship between fathers' involvement and youths' psychological adjustment is mediated by children's perceptions of fathers' acceptance. …