Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Wrestling Proteus: Assessing the Varying Nature of Father Involvement across Contexts

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Wrestling Proteus: Assessing the Varying Nature of Father Involvement across Contexts

Article excerpt

This study investigated the common assumption that measures of father involvement are invariant across child age, gender, and reporter. Measurement invariance was tested with 320families who were interviewed at child ages 10, 12, and 14. Criterion validity was also examined, using observational, survey, and physiologic measures with factor rotation type considered. It was found that invariance did not hold across gender for child report but did hold for mother and father reports. Differing factors were found across time and reporter. Child report and orthogonally rotated solutions demonstrated the greatest criterion validity. The findings suggest that typical father involvement assumptions may not hold and, when this is the case, involvement should be conceptualized in light of varying involvement domains. Implications for conceptualizing and analytically examining father involvement are considered.

Key Words: autonomic nervous system, exploratory structural equation modeling, father-child relations, longitudinal analysis, measurement invariance.

Research on how fathers influence their children's development has rapidly increased over the past three decades, with numerous linkages found between a father's involvement (FI) and the well-being of his child (Flouri, 2005; Lamb, 2000, 2010; Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). Given the importance of FI, research has sought to understand factors that influence FI, including child age and gender (e.g., W. A. Collins & Russell, 1991; Larson, Richards, Moneta, Holmbeck, & Duckett, 1996; Paulson & Sputa, 1996; Sher-Censor, Parke, & Coltrane, 2011; Updegraff, Delgado, & Wheeler, 2009), and to understand how fathers, mothers, and children differentially report involvement (e.g., Gonzales, Cauce, & Mason, 1996; Mounts, 2007; Paulson & Sputa; Sher-Censor et ah).

Although previous research has uncovered much on how child age, gender, and reporter matter when understanding FI, as of yet the assumption of measurement invariance across these contexts has not been tested. That is, whereas previous research has focused on mean comparisons of FI across age, gender, and reporter, an issue that precedes this comparison is whether FI holds the same meaning across these (i.e., does FI have a protean nature?). Indeed, even though the same FI measure may be administered across contexts, the measure may not display the same properties and therefore be noncomparable. The rich literature on measurement invariance has emphasized this point well (e.g., Meredith, 1993; Widaman, Ferrer, & Conger, 2010; Widaman & Reise, 1997). As Vandenberg and Lance (2000) succinctly stated, "It makes no sense to conduct tests of group differences when the constructs that are being measured differ across groups" (p. 37).

Assessing differences in FI measurement properties tests hypotheses of whether the nature (or perceived nature) of FI differs across contexts. It is important to note that these differences are in and of themselves a crucial phenomenon to study, perhaps more so than mean FI differences. Testing FI measurement invariance across contexts will provide more nuanced understanding and conceptualization of FI.

FI research often implicitly assumes invariant constructs across contexts. For example, the implicit assumption in a recent examination of whether the effect of FI differs by child gender was that FI has the same meaning and measurement structure across gender (Day & Padilla-Walker, 2009). Similarly, whereas Barber and colleagues (Barber, Stolz, Olsen, Collins, & Burchinal, 2005) examined the stability of the effects of parenting over time, they did not examine whether parenting's measurement properties also demonstrated such stability.

Age, gender, and reporter likewise have received little consideration in examinations of the multidimensionality of FI. For example, Schoppe-Sullivan, McBride, and Moon-Ho Ringo (2004) examined FI multidimensionality, but did not consider child age or gender. …

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