Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Perceptions of Fatherhood: Longitudinal Reciprocal Associations within the Couple

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Perceptions of Fatherhood: Longitudinal Reciprocal Associations within the Couple

Article excerpt

This longitudinal study examines reciprocal associations between maternal perceptions of paternal involvement and paternal perceptions of themselves as a father and of their relationship with the mother over the first 18 months after the birth of a first child, that is, during the transition to parenthood. Both members of intact heterosexual couples (n = 183) completed self-report questionnaires when their first child was two, five, and 18 months of age. Each assessment period included measures of fathers' perceptions of the importance of their parental identity, their parental self-efficacy, and their marital satisfaction, as well as mothers' perceptions of the quality and quantity of paternal involvement in child care. Results of cross-lag path analyses indicate that fathers' greater parental self-efficacy at two months predicts mothers' perceptions of greater paternal involvement at five months. Conversely, mothers' perceptions of greater paternal involvement at two months predict greater parental self-efficacy and marital satisfaction in fathers at five months. This study highlights the importance of the first few months after the birth of a child for perceptions of fatherhood within the couple. Results suggest that when couples become parents, new mothers and fathers mutually influence their respective perceptions relative to fatherhood.

Keywords: paternal involvement, fathers' parental identity, fathers' parental self-efficacy, marital satisfaction, maternal perceptions

Résumé

Cette étude longitudinale s'intéresse à la relation réciproque entre les perceptions maternelles de l'engagement du père et les perceptions que les pères ont d'eux même, en tant que père, et de leur relation avec leur conjointe, suite à la naissance d'un premier enfant. Les deux membres de couples hétérosexuels intacts (n = 183) ont complété individuellement des questionnaires autorapportés lorsque leur premier enfant avait deux, cinq et 18 mois. Chaque temps de mesure comportait des évaluations de l'importance de l'identité parentale, du sentiment d'efficacité parentale et de la satisfaction conjugale des pères, de même que des perceptions maternelles de la qualité et la quantité de l'engagement du père auprès de leur enfant. Les résultats d'analyses d'effets croisés indiquent qu'un meilleur sentiment d'efficacité du père à deux mois prédit des perceptions maternelles plus positives de l'engagement des pères à cinq mois. Inversement, des perceptions maternelles positives de l'engagement des pères à deux mois prédisent un meilleur sentiment d'efficacité et une plus grande satisfaction conjugale chez les pères à cinq mois. Cette étude souligne l'importance des premiers mois suivant la naissance d'un enfant pour Ia perception de la paternité au sein du couple. Lorsque les membres d'un couple deviennent parents, ils influencent mutuellement leurs perceptions vis-à-vis la paternité.

Mots-clés : engagement paternel, identité parentale, sentiment d'efficacité parentale, satisfaction conjugale et perceptions maternelles

The 20th century gave rise to many social changes, notably the massive entry of women into the workforce and the diversification of family structures (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth & Lamb, 2000). These changes have profoundly transformed the social and cultural context in which families evolve (Carpenter, 2002; Steinberg, Kruckman, & Steinberg, 2000), changing North American social expectations regarding the role of fathers in the family (Lamb, 2010; Marsiglio, 1995). Fathers are increasingly urged to participate in child care (LaRossa, 1988; Lamb, 2010). However, "deeply rooted mentalities don't change as quickly as ideas" (Dorais, 1988, p. 81; our translation). Though recent statistics suggests that fathers' involvement in child care has increased in recent years (Institut de la Statistique du Québec, 2009), mothers of preschool-aged children allocate twice as much time as fathers to child care (Institut de la Statistique du Québec, 2000; Pleck, 1 997). …

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