Academic journal article Fathering

Connection and Communication in Father-Child Relationships and Adolescent Child Well-Being

Academic journal article Fathering

Connection and Communication in Father-Child Relationships and Adolescent Child Well-Being

Article excerpt

Contemporary research on fathering emphasizes the significance of a quality father-child relationship in a child's development and well-being. Scholars have suggested that connecting with and communicating with children are critical to a healthy relationship. This study explores the influence of communication and connection on father-child relationships through a structural equation model using the LISREL program. Data were taken from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and a sample of 362 father-adolescent dyads was studied. Results provide support for the importance of connection in father-child relationships and suggest relationship quality affects adolescent child well-being for both father-son and father-daughter dyads.

Key Words: fathers and adolescents, fathering, adolescent child well-being, connection, communication

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Research on father-child relationship has in the last two decades (Biller, 1993; Coltrane, 1996; Doherty, Kouneski, & Erickson, 1998; Hawkins & Dollahite, 1997; Lamb, 1981, 1997; Snarey, 1993). Such scholarship has illustrated that men can make an important and lasting contribution to their children's lives (Parke, 1996). Further research is needed to explore the questions of how, under what conditions, and to what degree fathers positively influence their children. The findings of such research clarify the conceptual linkages between fathers' involvement, relationship quality, and child outcomes. Lamb (1997) has summarized, "Many of the studies dealing with paternal influences show that the closeness of the father-child relationship--itself a consequence of sufficiently extensive and sensitive interactions--is a crucial determinant of the father's impact on child development and adjustment" (p. 7).

This study attempts to link recent theoretical work on fathering with specific evidence of fathers' influence on their adolescent children through examining a nationally representative data set. Data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) contains information collected directly from fathers and allows examination of the influence of fathers in caring for children. This study involves a quantitative assessment with NSFH data of two specific concepts, father-child connection and father-child communication, as direct influences on relationship quality and ultimately on adolescent child well-being. For purposes of the study, these constructs are defined as follows: (1) father-child connection refers to a father's efforts to create and maintain an interpersonal connection with his child by active participation in the child's life; (2) father-child communication refers to a father's efforts to facilitate understanding between himself and a child through the exchange of verbal and nonverbal messages. Also, reference to the father-child relationship in the study's findings should be understood as meaning adolescent children from ages 12 to 18.

LITERATURE REVIEW

THEORIES OF FATHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS

Early correlational studies of paternal influence showed that father-child relationship characteristics, such as warmth and closeness, were important correlates of children's achievement and psychosocial adjustment (Biller, 1974; Radin, 1981). Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine (1985) pioneered a tripartite model of father involvement that included paternal engagement (direct caregiving, play, etc.), accessibility, and responsibility. Further refinement of this threefold father involvement model has led to the assessment of specific activities that denote father-child involvement in a positive way (McBride, 1990; Radin, 1994). Pleck (1997) refers to this conceptual development as the difference between paternal involvement and "positive paternal involvement." These models by Lamb et al. (1985; 1987) enabled a new wave of research on father-child relationships that focused on fathers' positive contributions to children. …

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