Academic journal article Fathering

Life Stories of Young Fathers in Contexts of Vulnerability

Academic journal article Fathering

Life Stories of Young Fathers in Contexts of Vulnerability

Article excerpt

In 1984, Belsky identified dimensions that have an influence on parental conduct: developmental history, personality, marital relations, work, social network, and child characteristics. The objectives of this article are to examine Belsky's model in relation to a sample of 17 young fathers in contexts of vulnerability and to better understand parenting determinants based on the findings of a qualitative study. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted asking these fathers about their individual, professional, and co-parental histories and about fathering. The results reveal that despite an unstable individual history, most fathers stay in contact with their children, even alter a marital separation. The quality of the relationship with the mother of origin and the support from their children's mother seem to have an impact on father involvement.

Keywords: young lathers, vulnerability, marital separation, father involvement

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The past decades have displayed a growing understanding of the various types of father involvement and of the conditions that support the active involvement of fathers with their children (Lamb & Tamis-Lemonda, 2003). Researchers have examined fathers in a variety of contexts (e.g.., adolescent, single-parent, and divorced lathers) and they have studied methods of intervention that facilitate the participation of lathers in the lives of their children. Recent studies have demonstrated that researchers are increasingly interested in the interactions between the various factors likely to influence father involvement (see Lamb, 2003). Using an ecological approach, Belsky (1984) sought to identify the factors that determine how parents play their role in order to conceptualize the interaction among these factors and their impact on parenting. One objective of this article is to examine Belsky's model in relation to a sample of low-income fathers. A second objective is to better understand Belsky's parenting determinants and their interrelations based on the findings of a qualitative study involving a sample of fathers in contexts of vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined here as the sum of the following risk factors: young age at birth of first child, instability in terms of employment and income, and low educational level. Because this sub-group of fathers has been the subject of fewer studies than fathers in general, we know less about them in terms of determinants for lather involvement (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2000; Mosley & Thomson, 1995).

Belsky's Model of the Determinants of Parenting

Belsky's (1984) ecological parenting model suggests that "parent's developmental histories, marital relations, social networks, and jobs influence individual personality and general psychological well-being of parents and, thereby, parental functioning and, in turn child development" (p. 84). Furthermore, Belsky specifies that "developmental history and personality shape parenting indirectly, by first influencing the broader context in which parent-child relations exist (i.e., marital relations, social networks, occupational experience)" (p. 84). For the purposes of our study and by means of the available scientific literature, we will develop the following dimensions: individual history, co-parental history, and professional history. These three dimensions, presented in the conceptual framework (Figure 1) are based on Belsky's model. This model suggests that fatherhood, defined here as the father's perception of his role toward his child and the meaning he gives to this role in his own life, is influenced by the three dimensions mentioned above. The developmental history is represented by the "individual history," the marital relationship by the "coparental history," and the dimension of work is represented by the "professional history." We changed the names of the dimensions in order to adapt to the population of our study. …

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