Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Religion, Convention, and Paternal Involvement

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Religion, Convention, and Paternal Involvement

Article excerpt

Family scholarship has generally overlooked the influence that religion may have on paternal involvement. Accordingly, using longitudinal data taken from the National Survey of Families and Households, I examined the influence of religious affiliation and attendance on the involvement of residential fathers in one-on-one activities, dinner with their families, and youth activities and found religious effects for each of these three measures. Virtually no evidence was found for a competing hypothesis that these effects are artifacts of a conventional habitus such that the type of men who are more conventional in their patterns of civic engagement are both more religious and more involved with their children. However, civic engagement is positively related to paternal involvement.

Key Words: civic engagement, convention, paternal involvement, religion.

In recent years, scholars of family life have increasingly turned their attention to fatherhood in an effort to determine how men's involvement in the lives of their children bears on child well-being, gender equality, and marital quality (Booth & Crouter, 1998; Coltrane, 1996; Lamb, 1997). Research focusing on one critical dimension of the father role-paternal involvement by residential fathers-has focused on the ways in which socioeconomic status, gender attitudes, and the child's gender, age, and race influence the level and type of paternal involvement among residential fathers (Cooksey & Fondell, 1996; Harris & Morgan, 1991; Marsiglio, 1991; Pleck, 1997). But this research has largely passed over the ways in which the institutional contexts of men's lives influence paternal involvement (Doherty, Kouneski, & Erickson, 1998). This study focuses on the voluntary institution with which Americans are the most actively affiliated, religion (Putnam, 2000), testing whether men's religious culture and participation are related to the extent and type of their paternal involvement.

Extrafamilial institutions have long been known to shape parental values and behavior. Religious institutions have been particularly influential carriers of family-related culture over the course of American history. Their influence continues to this day, even though some of the distinctive parental value orientations that once divided Protestants and Catholics have disappeared (Alwin, 1986). Religious institutions have also been powerful sources of family-related social integration, offering family-related activities as well as informal networks that provide social support and control for family-oriented behavior (Ellison, 1994; Stolzenberg, Blair-Loy, & Waite, 1995). However, there has been little quantitative research using nationally representative data that focuses on the influence that religion may have on contemporary paternal involvement (but see Bartkowski & Xu, 2000). Using longitudinal data from two waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), this study addresses this research gap by examining the associations between religion and three areas of paternal involvement: one-on-one activities, dinner with one's family, and youth activities.

Given the longstanding association between religion and convention in American life, it is also possible that any relationships found between fatherhood and religion are an artifact of an underlying exogenous conventional effect (Stolzenberg et at., 1995). In other words, the kind of men who are actively involved with their churches and their children may be the kind of men who are more conventional in general. This conventional effect is explored by testing whether civic engagement accounts for any of the relationships found between religion and paternal involvement.

Exploring the links between religion, convention, and paternal involvement is particularly important in light of recent research that suggests paternal involvement is related to a range of positive child outcomes. …

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