Academic journal article Fathering

Fathers' Narratives of Arranging and Planning: Implications for Understanding Paternal Responsibility

Academic journal article Fathering

Fathers' Narratives of Arranging and Planning: Implications for Understanding Paternal Responsibility

Article excerpt

This study examines 40 fathers' narratives of arranging and planning for young children from Midwest and Southwest U.S. samples. Arranging and planning is seen as an aspect of the responsibility component of Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine's (1985) widely used three-part conceptualization of paternal involvement. Based on four themes observed, different types of paternal "responsibility identifies" are distinguished: 1) deferred-responsibility identity, 2) conjoint-responsibility identity, 3) mixed deferred/conjoint-responsibility identity, and 4) contextualized solo-responsibility identity. The importance of understanding fathers' responsibility identity and considerations for future research are discussed.

Key Words: father-child interactions, fathers' responsibility identity, father involvment

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   Hi, this is Jane, Michael's mom from soccer. [Pseudonyms used
   throughout.] I was calling to see if I was, or you were, bringing
   snacks to the game tomorrow. I can't remember. If I'm supposed
   to be doing snack tomorrow, would you do me a huge favor and
   switch with me? I can do it next Saturday. I'm going to be out of
   town tomorrow and might not make it back in time for the game.
   And I don't trust my husband to bring them. If you can bring it,
   that would be great. I'll talk to you tonight....

This phone message was received shortly after starting this paper. The father referred to in the message attended every game and most practices, even helping to coach. Yet, according to his wife, he could not be counted on to remember to bring snacks to the next game. This paper examines the aspect of paternal involvement that she is concerned about: responsibility, in Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine's (1985) widely used three-part conceptualization of paternal involvement.

The goal of this analysis is to increase understanding of paternal responsibility, the least studied of involvement's components. In this study, responsibility is interpreted as an aspect of paternal identity. Further, individuals' stories about their experience are considered, theoretically, to be an especially valuable way to explore identity. Using fathers' narratives about ways in which they have--or have not--arranged and planned things for their children, we thus seek to identify themes and patterns in how fathers construct responsibility as part of their parental identifies.

BACKGROUND

PATERNAL RESPONSIBILITY

While many studies have examined aspects of the first two components, engagement (i.e., direct interaction with the child) and accessibility (i.e., availability to the child), fewer have investigated responsibility. Lamb et al. (1985) defined responsibility as

   [T]he role a father takes in making sure that the child is taken
   care of and arranging resources to be available to the child. For
   example this might involve arranging for babysitters, making
   appointments with pediatricians and seeing that the child is taken
   to them, determining when the child needs new clothes, etc. (p. 884)

In a review of the literature, Pleck (1997) reported that fathers' average share of responsibility is substantially lower than mothers' (Leslie, Anderson, & Branson, 1991; McBride & Mills, 1993; Peterson & Gerson, 1992) and lower than fathers' share of engagement or accessibility (McBride & Mills, 1993). Recent studies have focused particularly on responsibility for selecting non-parental child-care arrangements (Leslie et al., 1991; Peterson & Gerson, 1992). Research has yet to identify any child-care task for which fathers have primary responsibility. While there is evidence that the disparities between mothers' and fathers' activity in engagement and accessibility have decreased over the last three decades (Pleck, 1997), there is less to suggest a similar shift in the responsibility component.

In other important reviews, Parke (1995, 2002) likewise found that fathers are substantially less responsible than mothers for what he terms the managerial tasks of parenting. …

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