Academic journal article Fathering

Mother Involvement as an Influence on Father Involvement with Early Adolescents

Academic journal article Fathering

Mother Involvement as an Influence on Father Involvement with Early Adolescents

Article excerpt

This study hypothesized that father involvement is influenced by mothers' level of involvement as well as by marital conflict, mothers' work hours, and fathers' status as biological or step father. The analysis also tested hypotheses about mother involvement as a potential mediator of the effects of marital conflict and maternal work hours on lather involvement, and hypotheses about factors influencing mother involvement. Children aged 10-14 from the NLSY79 who resided with their biological or step father and with their mother reported on each parent's involvement with them. As hypothesized, father involvement was predicted by mother involvement, and the reciprocal influence was not significant. Father involvement was associated with low marital conflict and being a biological lather. Mothers' involvement partially mediated the effects of marital conflict on father involvement. If the mediating role of maternal involvement is not taken into account, the effect of marital conflict on father involvement is overestimated.

Keywords: lather involvement, mother involvement, marital conflict, stepfamilies, maternal employment


Early adolescence is a crucial period in development. It marks the decline of exclusive family influence/control and increased independence from family, greater involvement with peers, and more varied nonfamily influences. Nonetheless, as Collins and Laursen (2004) point out, parent-child relationships remain important social and emotional resources well beyond the childhood years despite these alterations in patterns of interaction. Fathers have important influences on adolescent children (Cookston & Findlay, 2006; Regnerus & Luchies, 2006), but most research examining paternal effects on development, as well as research on the factors influencing father involvement, concerns the early period of the child's life. In addition, most research focuses on either fathering or mothering, not considering both parents' involvement simultaneously.

Using a theoretical model derived from Belsky's (1984) and Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine's (1985) conceptualizations, this paper examines factors influencing resident fathers' involvement with their 10-14 year-old early adolescents. An innovative feature of the study's theoretical model is its inclusion of mother's level of involvement as an influence on father involvement. Since several recent comprehensive reviews of research on father involvement are available (Parke, 2002; Parke, Dennis, Flyr, Leidy, & Schofield, 2005; Pleck, 1997; Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004), the review of prior research literature here can highlight current conceptualizations of the factors affecting lather involvement, with special attention to evidence suggesting that mothers' level of involvement may be a potential influence.

Factors Influencing Father Involvement

Belsky (1984) and Lamb et al. (1985; see also Pleck, Lamb, & Levine, 1985) offered the two broad theoretical models most influential in recent research on the sources of lather involvement. Belsky's "process model" concerned the determinants of parenting in general, not specified by gender. Interestingly, however, much of the research Belsky cited in support of his model concerned fathers. Belsky's model postulates that parenting behavior is determined by (a) parents' personality, (b) characteristics of the child, and (c) "contextual sources of stress and support" that include the marital relationship, parents' job experiences, and social networks. Lamb et al.'s "four factor model" of paternal involvement specified as predictors (a) motivation, (b) skills and self-confidence, (c) social support, especially from the mother, and (d) institutional factors, especially in the workplace. Pleck (1997) noted three congruencies between the two models. Specifically, Lamb and Pleck's motivation factor can be interpreted as a central concomitant of Belsky's personality factor. …

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