Academic journal article Fathering

Conditions Affecting the Association between Father Identity and Father Involvement

Academic journal article Fathering

Conditions Affecting the Association between Father Identity and Father Involvement

Article excerpt

To better understand the conditions under which fathers are more or less involved with their children, we tested the moderating influences of interparental relationships on the association between identity and behavior in a sample of 186 married and 93 divorced fathers. Results showed that identity investment and satisfaction were positively associated with involvement in child-related activities, but identity salience was not. Also, the relationship between satisfaction and involvement was stronger when there was less cooperation and less indirect conflict, and the relationship between investment and involvement was stronger when there was less cooperation. These moderating effects were stronger for divorced fathers.

Keywords: father identity, father involvement, divorced fathers, interparental relationships, identity, satisfaction

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Research demonstrates that fathers have less involvement with their children than do mothers, and following divorce father involvement decreases (Pleck, 1997). Pasley and Braver (2004) argued that the context of postdivorce families makes father involvement more complicated. In spite of such complications, research shows that just under half of divorced fathers (47%) saw their children 1-3 times per month or more, and 25% saw their children at least weekly (Seltzer, 1991). Although some fathers report less close relationships with their children following divorce (Booth & Amato, 1994), many adult children of divorced parents report maintaining close relationships with their fathers (Ahrons & Tanner, 2003).

Whereas some debate exists regarding the extent of father involvement in married and divorced families, the importance of father involvement is well documented (Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000), so scholars have begun to examine how contextual factors affect involvement (e.g., Rane & McBride, 2000; Rettig & Leichtentritt, 2001; Stone & McKenry, 1998). The present study adds to this literature by examining how dimensions of the interparental relationship moderate the link between father identity and involvement in a sample of married and divorced fathers.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Identity theory (Stryker, 1968) has been used to explain both levels and forms of father involvement, positing that fathers' involvement with children stems from the meanings and importance they assign to being fathers (Ihinger-Tallman, Pasley, & Buehler, 1993; Marsiglio et al., 2000). According to identity theory, it is through social interactions that statuses (e.g., father, husband) and roles (e.g., provider, nurturer, disciplinarian) are given meaning, and behaviors reflecting these statuses and roles are either inhibited or reinforced. The meanings that individuals attach to particular roles result in the creation of identities, and these identities subsequently guide behavior (Burke & Reitzes, 1981). Over time, behaviors associated with particular identities become stable and are invoked across a wider variety of situations, rather than being situation- or context-specific. Some recent research suggests that the relationship between identity and behavior is bidirectional, such that individuals' behaviors also affect their identities (e.g., Cast, 2003). Because of the data used here (collected at a single point in time), we limited our examination to the association between father identity and involvement rather than any causal relationships.

Identity is defined as "internalized sets of role expectations" (Stryker, 1987, p. 90). Thus, father identities are conceptualized as fathers' self-perceptions and expectations regarding how they should enact different roles within the father status. This conceptualization has been measured in a number of ways, including fathers' satisfaction with and competence enacting their father identities, role clarity, and willingness to invest time and resources in their father identities (e. …

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