Academic journal article Fathering

Effects of Parenting Education on First-Time Fathers' Skills in Interactions with Their Infants

Academic journal article Fathering

Effects of Parenting Education on First-Time Fathers' Skills in Interactions with Their Infants

Article excerpt

Fathers are interested in helping their infants learn. Fathers also prefer parenting education programs with active participation. This randomized controlled study with first-time fathers evaluated the effects of video self-modeling with feedback delivered during two home visits. Fathers in the intervention group (n = 81) reviewed, with a home visitor, examples of parental sensitivity and responsiveness from videotapes of the father playing with his child at five and six months. The home visitor provided the father with positive feedback and a handout. The 81 fathers in the control group discussed age appropriate toys with the home visitor. Although first-time fathers in both intervention and control groups reported increased competence in parenting over time, fathers in the intervention group were significantly more skilled in fostering cognitive growth and maintained their sensitivity to infant cues when the baby was eight months old.

Keywords: fathers, evaluation studies, infant, father-child relations, parenting education


Increased father involvement with infants and young children has resulted in a demand for effective programs for fathers wanting to learn more about parenting during the child's early years. Most programs recommended for first-time parents are in the form of prenatal (Health Canada, 2000) and parenting (Government of Canada, 2004) education classes. Programs for fathers frequently are based on classes originally designed for mothers (Doherty, Erickson, & LaRossa, 2006). The purpose of this study was to evaluate a parenting education intervention with a community sample of first-time fathers of healthy infants. Some previous research has shown that fathers of both term and preterm infants show a decrease in parent-infant interaction skills during the infant's first year of life (Harrison & Magill-Evans, 1996). The intervention was designed to increase the father's skill in interactions; in particular, his ability to recognize and respond to the infant's behavioral cues and to promote cognitive and social-emotional growth.

Over the past two decades, there has been a recognition in North America of the importance of father involvement in families with corresponding changes in public policy and research agendas. For example, in Canada, the federal government changed the employment insurance program so that parental leave after childbirth or adoption could be claimed by one parent or shared between the mother and father (Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, 2005). The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Family and Child Well-Being Research Network was established in the United States in 1993 and identified father involvement and its effect on children as a research priority (Evans, 2004).

Recognition of the importance of father involvement has been influenced by social trends such as more mothers in the workforce (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2000). In 2004, nearly 60 percent of married women with preschool children in the United States were employed (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005). In 2001, 71 percent of partnered Canadian women with preschool children were in the labor force (Vanier Institute of the Family [VIF], 2004). In addition, fathers head 17 percent of lone-parent families, 69 percent of whom were separated or divorced (VIF, 2000).

Father involvement includes three components: (a) paternal engagement or direct interaction with the chiid, (b) accessibility or availability to the child, and (c) responsibility or efforts to ensure the child is cared for and has the necessary resources (Lamb, Peck, Charnov, & Levine, 1985). The parenting education intervention described in this study focuses on paternal engagement or direct interaction with the child, and assumes that fathers want to be involved in parenting their children and have the strength and potential for growth (Hawkins & Dollahite, 1997). …

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