Academic journal article Fathering

The Dakota Father Friendly Assessment: Measuring Father Friendliness in Head Start and Similar Settings

Academic journal article Fathering

The Dakota Father Friendly Assessment: Measuring Father Friendliness in Head Start and Similar Settings

Article excerpt

Head Start programs offer a setting to examine support that facilitates father involvement. The Dakota Father Friendly Assessment (DFFA) is designed to evaluate an organization's level of father-friendliness. To establish its psychometric properties, a sample of North and South Dakota early childhood staff (N = 609) completed the DFFA. A number of measures were included as indicators of validity. Factor analysis of the DFFA confirmed the presence of four expected factors and revealed a fifth factor ( loadings ranged from .40 to .80). Coefficient alphas for DFFA subscales ranged from .71 to .87. Moderate relationships existed between DFFA subscales and other measures, demonstrating concurrent and discriminant validity. Research is needed to determine the efficacy of the DFFA in other organizational settings and to identify change over time.

Keywords: father friendly organizations, responsible fatherhood, father measurement, father friendly scales, fathering, Head Start male involvement programs


Research spanning three decades has established that active, positive fathering is good for children and fathers (Lamb, 1975; Lamb, 2004). Father involvement has been correlated with infant secure attachment (Notaro & Volling, 1999), toddler ability to regulate negative feelings (Davidov & Grusec, 2006), higher self-esteem in middle school (Amato, 1987), and higher school achievement in adolescence (Ramirez-Valles, Zimmerman, & Juarez, 2002). Father involvement also promotes men's healthy development. When men engage with their children, they gain a stronger sense of purpose in life (Palkovitz, Copes, & Woolfolk, 2001), increase intergenerational and extended family interaction (Knoester & Eggebeen, 2006), and report increased job performance (Graves, Ohlott, & Ruderman, 2007).

But strengthening father-child relationships to promote healthy outcomes for children and fathers does not occur without effort (Brotherson & White, 2007). Fathers, as well as mothers, often need support to know how to parent well (Berger, 1995). Children need opportunities to interact with fathers or father figures to strengthen these bonds too (Lamb & Lewis, 2004). A recent meta-analysis of community fathering programs presents direct evidence that providing services to resident fathers increases father's day-to-day care for children, improves coparenting, improves the quality of the father-child relationship, and minimizes child behavior problems (Holmes, Galovan, Yoshida, & Hawkins, 2010). Though the samples from which this meta-analysis were drawn primarily include middle-income white fathers, results from low-income, multiethnic, and non-resident samples also provide direct evidence that giving resident and non-resident fathers support will improve fathering outcomes (see for example, Cowan, Cowan, Pruett, Pruett, & Wong, 2009; Fagan, 2008). Based on the accumulation of such evidence, early childhood educators seek ways to improve father involvement through partnerships with parents, early childhood programs, and the community. To this end the Head Start Father/Male Involvement Initiative implemented the following program goals: strengthen men's roles in families, increase men's participation in the program, strengthen father-child relationships, and create opportunities that facilitate father-child interaction (Fagan & Iglesias, 1999; McBride & Lutz, 2004).

Unfortunately, facilitating father involvement in early childhood settings can be stalled if the program is not "father friendly" (McBride & Rane, 1996). What is a "father friendly" program? "Father friendly" programs value father involvement with young children. To get fathers involved, father friendly programs assess staff members' attitudes about men, train staff members to consider the myths versus realities of their attitudes, encourage staff members to get to know fathers/father figures, create environments that welcome men, and try to recruit male staff (Cunningham, 2000). …

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