Academic journal article Fathering

Impacts of a Parenting Newsletter on Fathers of Kindergarten Children

Academic journal article Fathering

Impacts of a Parenting Newsletter on Fathers of Kindergarten Children

Article excerpt

This study is the first assessment of the perceived effectiveness of a parenting newsletter written specifically for fathers or father figures. The Father Times newsletter was distributed weekly for six weeks to all families of kindergarten children at a local school. One hundred seventy-seven fathers responded to a self-report questionnaire regarding usage of the parenting newsletter, perceptions of the newsletter as a resource, and impacts on fathers' attitudes, knowledge, behaviors, and father-child relationship quality. Two-thirds of fathers in the sample reported changing at least "somewhat" in all nine outcomes explored. Neither father age nor number of children in the home influenced fathering outcomes, but fathers with lower levels of education reported greater impacts from reading the newsletter. While the newsletter targeted fathers, 70% of mothers also read the newsletter suggesting that targeting fathers may be an effective way to continue to bring parent education to mothers. It further suggests that a fathering newsletter could be a useful tool for coparenting discussions. We conclude that directly reaching out to fathers and father figures can bridge the divide between men and parent education programs, providing an effective alternative to traditional parent education programs.

Keywords: family life education; parent education; parenting newsletters; father-child relationship; fathering; early childhood

While many parents need support to improve parent knowledge, increase skills, and prevent abuse (Arcus, Schvanaveldt, & Moss, 1993; Campbell & Palm, 2004; Martin & Weigel, 2001), education for fathers may be especially important because men's socialization to parenthood often leaves them less prepared than women for the empathy, connectedness, and responsibility good parenting requires (Brotherson, 2007; Ehrensaft, 1995). Yet parent educators regularly report that recruiting and retaining fathers is more challenging than recruiting and retaining mothers (Hawkins & Fagan, 2001). How can parent educators reach out to fathers? We propose that a parent education newsletter targeting fathers and father figures will be an effective way to offer men the educational tools they need, and to meet men's desire for direct, individualized education (Hawkins & Fagan, 2001; Palm, 1997).

Research on the effectiveness of newsletters has focused almost exclusively on mothers. In this article we fill this gap by exploring fathers' and father figures' usage of the Father Times newsletter, their perceptions of the newsletter as a resource, and their perceived impacts on fathers' attitudes, knowledge, behaviors, and father-child relationship quality. We further explore variations in effects by father age, father education, number of children, and perceived impact of the newsletter.

INTRODUCTION

Newsletters as Effective Educational Tools for Fathers

Newsletters target specialized populations, reduce barriers commonly associated with more formal classroom teaching, and enhance parent knowledge, confidence, and skills (Garton et al., 2003; Martin & Weigel, 2001; Riley et al., 1991; Walker, 2005).

How might newsletters impact fathers' or father figures' parenting? Based on Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory, family life educators emphasize the interplay between individuals, families, and the larger social context (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). Ecological theory assumes that individuals develop in a multitude of systemic contexts (the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem). The two systems most relevant to the role of newsletters for fathers are the microsystem, which encompasses the relationships and interactions a father and his child have within their immediate surroundings (e.g. the interaction they have at home), and the mesosystem, which represents the connection between the father and the institutions with which he interacts (e. …

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