Academic journal article Fathering

Child Healthcare Decision-Making: Examining "Conjointness" in Paternal Identities among Residential and Non-Residential Fathers

Academic journal article Fathering

Child Healthcare Decision-Making: Examining "Conjointness" in Paternal Identities among Residential and Non-Residential Fathers

Article excerpt

This study examines the paternal identity conjointness of seventeen residential and fourteen non-residential fathers within five, normative healthcare decisions. Using consensual qualitative research (CQR) methodology to investigate fathers' usage of parenting voice (I or We), we examined how paternal identity conjointness was similar and different between residential and non-residential fathers in each healthcare decision. Results revealed two new paternal identities, "self-as-detached" and "mixed." Residential fathers expressed a self-as-co-parental identity in three of the five healthcare decisions, but shifted to a self-as-solo identity when deciding if their child would be circumcised. Non-residential fathers constructed a self-as-co-parental identity in two healthcare decisions while also expressing a self-as-detached identity and mixed identity in other healthcare decisions. Contextual and relational influences on paternal identity conjointness are identified. Implications of our findings for future research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: fathers, conjointness, parenting voice, paternal identity


The study of fatherhood has intensified, due in part, to men's increased involvement as primary care providers and the positive child outcomes associated with father involvement (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2000; Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). Scholars have recognized that fathering experiences have evolved beyond limited conceptualizations and measurements of father involvement as a behavioral construct (Hawkins & Palkovitz, 1999; Schoppe-Sullivan, McBride, & Ringo Ho, 2004). Efforts have been made to expand the study of fathers in order to better understand the non-behavioral, subjective experience of fathers (Lamb, 2000). Paternal identity, considered one of the most important non-behavioral components of fathering, represents a promising area of study of fathers in new childcare domains, such as healthcare decision-making (Coleman & Garfield, 2004; Pleck & Lamb, 1997; Pleck & Stueve, 2004; Roy, 2006).

This study seeks to extend previous literature by examining paternal identity conjointness in fathers' narratives of healthcare decisions-making concerning their threeyear-old child. Conjointness is "the extent to which the parental self is a co-parental self" and is developed, in part, through interactions with a coparent (Pleck & Stueve, 2004, p. 92). In other words, paternal identity conjointness considers a man's self-views and self-meanings as a father in light of his co-parental relationship. Thus, paternal identity conjointness is likely to provide insight into how the mother impacts a father's identity. Knowing more about the inter-correlated and interactive processes between how men view themselves in paternal roles, their relationship with the child's mother, and the ways that fathers are involved with their children is a long-standing goal of researchers and practitioners interested in encouraging fathers to assume positive paternal roles in the family.

Paternal Identity Conjointness and Healthcare Decision-Making

Defining, Conceptualizing, and Reviewing Paternal Identity Conjointness

Paternal identity conjointness has largely been framed within symbolic interactionism and identity theory and is based on previous conceptualizations of paternal identity. A man's identity as a father is considered to reflect social relationships and is impacted by psychological mechanisms associated with a man's multiple role identities (Marsiglio & Cohan, 2000; Maurer, Pleck, & Rane, 2001). How a father places importance on his multiple role identities facilitates the development of a general identity held by a father.

Pleck and Stueve developed the construct of parental identity conjointness through their qualitative analysis of "parenting voices" found in interviews with primarily married, resident parents (Pleck & Stueve, 2004; Stueve & Pleck, 2001, 2003). …

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