Fathering Court-Involved Daughters: Fathers' Gender-Specific Concerns about Their Paternal Role
Schock, Angie M., Gavazzi, Stephen M., Fathering
The fatherhood literature has expanded over the past several decades, yet the role that fathers may play in their relationships with their problematic adolescents has not been fully examined. Furthermore, because previous findings have suggested that fathers of court-involved daughters may be experiencing intrapsychic and interpersonal difficulties of their own, the present study examined a range of issues that fathers might be facing in their attempts to parent a daughter engaged in problematic behaviors. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of 14 fathers who had been referred to a family-based diversion program for at-risk adolescents. Several gender-specific themes emerged from the interviews. Fathers of female adolescents, in particular, expressed feelings of uncertainty in their parental role in four main areas: (a) a deficient understanding of their daughter's "female" issues; (b) communication barriers involving topics and style of communication; (c) limited involvement due to a lack of shared interests; and (d) indecision regarding how to effectively address their daughter's problematic behaviors. Future research is discussed that would further explore the impact that fathers' parenting concerns have on their own view of their parental role, their mental health, and their adolescent's well-being as well as how familial and community-based supports could aid in improving the father-daughter relationship in families with court-involved adolescents.
Keywords: father, daughter, parenting, adolescent, delinquency, qualitative research
While scholarship on fatherhood has greatly expanded over the past several decades (Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2001; Tamis-LeMonda & Cabrera, 1999), father/young child dyads have received considerably more attention than have father-adolescent relationships (Hosley & Montemayor, 1997; Updegraff, McHale, Crouter, & Kupanoff, 2001). Furthermore, one area in particular that has been neglected is the father's contribution to his adolescent's problematic behaviors (Dadds, 1995; Phares, 1999), and researchers know almost nothing about the differential roles that fathers may play in their relationships with at-risk sons versus atrisk daughters (Connell & Goodman, 2002; Phares & Compas, 1992). It has been suggested that fathers of court-involved daughters are likely to feel much less prepared to address their daughters' behaviors due to the general distancing that many fathers experience with their daughters during adolescence (Steinberg, 1987), coupled with the even more ambiguous situation that is created for fathers in terms of how these men should address their daughter's problematic behaviors--behaviors that are much less common among daughters than sons (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998).
The purpose of the paper will be to examine gender-specific issues fathers have identified regarding difficulties in fathering their court-involved daughters. First, relevant literature pertaining to fathers' individual characteristics and father-adolescent relationship characteristics found in families with court-involved versus noncourt-involved adolescents will be discussed. Second, results from a qualitative study involving interviews with fathers of court-involved adolescents will be discussed that seem to highlight fathers' feelings of uncertainty in their parental role with their daughters in four areas: (a) a deficient understanding of their daughter's situation/experience of being a female adolescent; (b) communication barriers involving topics of conversation and style of communication; (c) limited involvement due to a lack of shared interests; and (d) indecision regarding how to effectively address their daughter's problematic behaviors. Third and finally, implications for future research and family-based programming will be presented.
The study of father-offspring relationships has largely focused on the father's role during infancy (Lamb, 1997) and early childhood (Biller & Kimpton, 1997; Coley & Morris, 2002; Lewis, 1997), yet father-adolescent relationships have received considerably less attention (Hosley & Montemayor, 1997). The limited research in this area has included a variety of relationship characteristics, namely, the fathers' level of involvement and overall time spent with his adolescent (Larson & Richards, 1994; Miller & Lane, 1991; Montemayor & Brownlee, 1987), father-adolescent communication (Hauser et al., 1987; Larson & Richards; 1994; Nollar & Callan, 1990; Youniss & Ketterlinus, 1987), fathers' connectedness with their adolescent offspring (Barnes & Olson, 1985; Kenny, 1987; Miller & Lane, 1991), and father-adolescent conflict (Hill & Holmbeck, 1987; Smetana, 1989). In general, these studies suggest that fathers are much less involved (i.e., less time spent together, less communication, lower levels of connectedness and conflict) than are mothers with their adolescents. Furthermore, fathers are even less involved with their adolescent daughters in comparison to their sons (Larson & Richards; Montemayor, 1982; Nollar & Callan, 1990; Youniss & Ketterlinus, 1987). In fact, in one study of gender differences and family relationships during adolescence, Steinberg (1987) has commented: "The father-daughter relationship at adolescence is an outlier: It is distinguished from the other three parent-child dyads by its affective blandness and low level of interaction" (p. 196).
FATHERS OF COURT-INVOLVED ADOLESCENTS
Most of the family-centered research that has been conducted on court-involved adolescents has focused on a variety of family-level variables, such as poor family attachments (LeBlanc, 1992; Johnson & Pandina, 1991; Rankin & Kern, 1994), parental rejection (Simons, Robertson, & Downs, 1989), poor parental monitoring (Dishion, Patterson, Stoolmiller, & Skinner, 1991; Farrington, 1990; Henry, Moffitt, Robins, Earls, & Silva, 1993; Sampson & Laub, 1994), and inconsistent discipline practices (Farrington, 1990; Sampson & Laub, 1994; Henry et al., 1993).
When parents' individual contributions to their adolescents' problem behaviors have been examined, the majority of the work has focused on the mother's role rather than the father's role (Caplan & Hall-McCorquodale, 1985; Dadds, 1995; Phares, 1997, 1999; Phares & Compas, 1992). In fact, Phares (1997) notes that research on maternal contributions (primarily negative contributions) far outweighs the study of paternal contributions and that "mother blaming reflects the tendency to consider and investigate maternal contributions to the development of psychopathology in children while not considering or investigating paternal contributions to the same phenomena" (p. 262).
Although there is much less data about the father's specific role in his adolescent's problem behaviors, "inadequate fathering" has become a variable of interest to researchers interested in the connection between father characteristics and delinquent behavior. Reviewing this area of inquiry, Biller and Kimptom (1997) have noted that while "the inappropriate behavior of some mothers is a major negative influence contributing to their children's delinquent behavior patterns ... the lack of an adequate father-child relationship is a far more common factor in the backgrounds of troubled and acting-out sons and daughters" (pp. 154-155).
The construct of "inadequate fathering" has been conceptualized through the measurement of several paternal characteristics. For example, some research has examined fathers' psychopathology and criminal activity in relation to adolescent delinquency. Phares (1997) noted that adolescents with a diagnosis of conduct disorder (and older adolescents with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder) both tend to have fathers with a history of their own antisocial behavior, alcohol problems, and higher levels of aggressiveness. In fact, a significant portion of the literature about fathers and youth with conduct-disorder (CD) youth has focused specifically on paternal antisocial personality disorder and substance use (Frick, Lahey, Loeber, Stouthamer-Loeber, Christ, & Hanson, 1992; Hamdan-Allen, Stewart, & Beeghly, 1989; Jary & Stewart, 1985; Malone, Iacono, & McGue, 2002; Stewart, DeBlois, & Cummings, 1980) as well as paternal criminal history (Bailey, 1996; Graves, Openshaw, Ascione, & Erichsen, 1996; Lewis, Pincus, Lovely, Spitzer, & Moy, 1987; Truscott, 1992). In addition, a recent meta-analysis reviewed 174 studies that have examined the link between paternal (and maternal) psychopathology and child and adolescent internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Findings showed that fathers' psychopathology (paternal depression and alcoholism, in particular) was more closely related to problematic behaviors in older children and adolescents than to problematic behaviors among younger children (Connell & Goodman, 2002). Additional paternal factors, other than psychopathological characteristics, also have been examined in families with court-involved youth. For instance, both male and female delinquents perceived their fathers as less caring and more overly protective than did controls (Mak, 1996), and African-American and Latino adolescent males who were serious chronic offenders described their families as greatly disrupted and conflictual (Gorman-Smith, Tolan, Loeber, & Henry, 1998). In another study that investigated individual dyads within the family system, Conger and Conger (1994) found that the sibling treated with the highest level of parental hostility within the family displayed greater delinquency over time. Also, observational studies comparing the interactions of couples who did and did not have adolescents with CD have shown that the parents of youth with CD engage in more overt conflict (Whittaker & Bry, 1992) and the fathers in these families behave in a more dominant manner to their wives when compared with controls (Henggeler, Edwards, & Bourdin, 1987).
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FATHERS OF COURT-INVOLVED DAUGHTERS AND SONS
Paralleling the research on fathers of nondelinquent adolescents, it may be the case that the father-adolescent dyad among problematic teens may vary based on the adolescent's gender; namely, that fathers of sons and fathers of daughters should be considered as two very unique family dyads. Unfortunately, the limited number of studies on this issue have not yielded clear conclusions (Henggeler, Edwards, & Bourdin, 1987; Johnson & O'leary, 1987). For example, Heneggeler and colleagues found differences based on the adolescent's gender: fathers of delinquent daughters, versus fathers of delinquent sons, reported higher levels of neuroticism and experienced more conflict with their adolescent daughters (Henggeler, Edwards, & Bourdin, 1987). In another study, researchers found that maternal but not paternal behavior was related to the female adolescent's behavior patterns (Johnson & O'leary, 1987). Hence, additional research that examines the link between fathers and their delinquent sons versus fathers and their delinquent daughters is warranted.
To better understand gender-related differences that fathers may exhibit toward their delinquent offspring, it may be helpful to review research on expectations that parents have for their sons and daughters during adolescence. In fact, some of the literature on female adolescent delinquency has discussed how certain parental expectations and parenting practices may be related to the development of their daughters' misbehavior. For example, in reviews of female violence and delinquency (Chesney-Lind, 2001; …
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Publication information: Article title: Fathering Court-Involved Daughters: Fathers' Gender-Specific Concerns about Their Paternal Role. Contributors: Schock, Angie M. - Author, Gavazzi, Stephen M. - Author. Journal title: Fathering. Volume: 3. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2005. Page number: 121+. © 2009 Men's Studies Press. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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