Academic journal article Fathering

Father Involvement and Adolescent Adjustment: Longitudinal Findings from Add Health

Academic journal article Fathering

Father Involvement and Adolescent Adjustment: Longitudinal Findings from Add Health

Article excerpt

Based on two waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, evidence from 2,387 adolescents tested the hypothesis that mothers and fathers in two-parent families make unique, additive contributions to the delinquency, depressive symptoms, and alcohol use behaviors of their children. Cross-sectional and longitudinal structural equation models were used to explain variance in problematic outcomes. Before controlling for baseline scores, the cross-sectional and longitudinal results supported the conclusion that mother and father involvement explained unique variance in children's adjustment. For delinquency and alcohol behaviors, the associations were attenuated considerably when Wave 1 behaviors were held constant. For depressive symptoms, only father involvement was a practically significant predictor. Results are discussed in light of methodological considerations pertaining to investigations of parent involvement during adolescence.

Keywords: father involvement, mother involvement, adolescent adjustment, delinquency, depression, alcohol use, longitudinal

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Although research on the associations between father involvement and child adjustment in two-parent homes permeates the canon (Lamb, 2004), evidence from nationally representative data that assesses longitudinal relations between mother and father involvement and adolescent adjustment is considerably more rare. Furthermore, in comparison to a body of literature that has reported the role of maternal factors in the prediction of child adjustment (Caplan & Hall-McCorquodale, 1985), relatively few studies have provided evidence that father behaviors offer a unique, additive contribution to the prospective prediction of adolescent adjustment when predicted by (a) maternal behavior and (b) problem behavior at an earlier point in time. Only recently has substantive work sought to explicate the exact role of fathers in their children's lives. Doherty, Kouneski, and Erikson (1998) and Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine (1987) offered important conceptual frameworks to guide research on fathers. Doherty and colleagues posited that responsible fathering is influenced by the father's relationships with the child and the child's mother, as well as contextual factors (e.g., cultural practices), individual characteristics of the father, child, and mother, and the nature of the coparenting relationship. Lamb and colleagues offered less guidance in explaining when fathers were involved and instead focused on the behaviors that constitute attentive fathering. The model by Lamb and colleagues described fathering as comprised of engagement (e.g., interactions with children), accessibility (e.g., responsiveness to child gestures and availability of father), and responsibility (e.g., providing care for children). Although there remains important conceptual work to be done in the area of father involvement, such considerations fall beyond the purview of this investigation. Herein, we consider the typical statistical associations observed between father behavior and children's adjustment over time.

Presently, two statistical associations have been observed that relate to the role of father involvement in the prediction of child and adolescent adjustment. One such pattern, the additive association, offers evidence to suggest that father involvement provides a unique contribution to their children's adjustment in addition to what can be explained by mother involvement and other social context variables. Based on a sample of over 2,500 adolescents in Britain, Houri and Buchanan (2003) found that after mother involvement, child age and sex, socioeconomic status of the family, interparent conflict, depressive symptoms, and self-efficacy were controlled, father involvement was still a statistically significant and salient predictor of adolescent happiness. Similarly, Amato and Riviera (1999) found comparable results in the 1987-1988 National Survey of Families and Households when they reported results of a structural equations model that predicted a combination of home and school problems from mother and father involvement. …

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