Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement

Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement

Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement

Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement


After decades of focusing on the mother's role in parenting, family studies researchers have turned their attention to the role of the father in parenting and family development. The results shed new light on childhood development and question conventional wisdom by showing that beyond providing the more traditional economic support of the family, fathers do indeed matter when it comes to raising a child.

Stemming from a series of workshops and publications sponsored by the Family and Child Well-Being Network, under the federal fatherhood initiative of the National Institute of Child Health and Development, this comprehensive volume focuses on ways of measuring the efficacy of father involvement in different scenarios, using different methods of assessment and different populations. In the process, new research strategies and new parental paradigms have been formulated to include paternal involvement. Moreover, this volume contains articles from a variety of influences while addressing the task of finding the missing pieces of the fatherhood construct that would work for new age, as well as traditional and minority fathers. The scope of this discussion offers topics of interest to basic researchers, as well as public policy analysts.


In 1993, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) formed the NICHD Family and Child Well-Being Research Network (Network). The Network was formed to address (1) the frustration within public policy circles that basic information relating to family and child well-being was filled with gaps and analyzed in an uneven manner and (2) the concern within the research community that family and child research was spread among a large number of disciplines so diverse in their research approaches that communication across fields was difficult. The Network was conceptualized as a systematic effort to both understand the relationship of family and child well-being from a multidisciplinary point of view and address public policy concerns in a comprehensive and responsive manner.

The members of the Network all identified father involvement and its effect on children as an area that needed interdisciplinary attention, and the Network initiated a fatherhood working group as one of its first collaborative topics. The Network tried to involve as many people as possible, and it reached out to Randy Day and Michael Lamb as part of its effort to stimulate research on the effects of father involvement on families and children. The Network activities regarding fatherhood attracted the attention of the public policy community, and in 1996 the federal government undertook a comprehensive evaluation of policy, practice, and information concerning fatherhood. It was my pleasure to cochair a committee that examined the status of our research and information about fathers and their effects on children and families. I was in a good position to participate in a very active research enterprise focused on the effects of father involvement at the same time that the entire government was engaged in an evaluation of how to improve our research base on fathers. In addition, the collective effort persuaded NICHD to take extraordinary steps to promote fatherhood research, and these efforts continue today.

The Network was designed to support research and research-related activities necessary to make research results accessible for public policy purposes. It engaged in research with the Federal Interagency Forum for Child and Family Statistics (Forum) and its component agencies to improve and balance the information base about families and children. In the process, it helped create a series of indicators about child and family well-being that has been designated by a . . .

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