Inside the Black Box of Interactions Between Programs and Participants: Re-conceptualizing Subgroups for Fatherhood Program Evaluation. B. Identity


Identity refers to who an individual is as a person-his personality characteristics, sense of self, and the importance placed on various roles. Reviewed studies included identity variables pertaining to the father's personality, self-esteem, antisocial behavior, psychiatric health, and variables reflecting his identity as a parent and as a provider.

About one-third of studies reviewed (21 of 64) examined predictors pertaining to the father's identity (see Table VI.1). Thirteen studies examined general aspects of the father's identity (specifically, his personality, self-esteem, antisocial behaviors, and psychiatric health), and eight studies examined his role-related identity.

·      A majority of these studies (17 of 21) examined parenting as an outcome; 11 found a significant association.

·      Seven studies examined father well-being, with six finding significant associations.

·      Five examined partner relationship outcomes, and four showed significant associations.

·      One examined whether a measure of identity predicted employment outcomes and found a significant association.

·      None of the studies examining identity predictors looked at child-support outcomes.

Appendix Table E.2 provides a list of the variables examined in each study and indicates whether statistically significant associations were found with key fatherhood outcomes. Findings are summarized below.

1. Predictors of Parenting Outcomes

Personality. None of the four studies that examined fathers' personality as a predictor of parenting used longitudinal designs but all conducted multivariate analyses. Of the four multivariate studies, only one found a significant result. Jaffee and colleagues (2001) compared the personality profiles of fathers who spent little or no time living with their child to fathers who lived with their children full time and found that non-residential fathers had higher scores on negative emotionality, controlling for marital status, and exhibited more concurrent mental health problems and antisocial behaviors. However, in the same study, positive emotionality and constraint were not significant predictors.

Self-esteem. Four studies examined whether fathers' self-esteem was related to their parenting. Two studies of fathers of children in Head Start found statistically significant associations between self-esteem and parenting-but in opposite directions. In the first study, conducted with 33 African-American fathers of Head Start children, greater self-esteem was associated with more time spent by fathers in play interactions with their preschoolers, controlling for the father's personality, employment status, education, residential status, and relationship with the mother (Fagan 1996). However, in a second study of 85 African American and Puerto Rican fathers, those with lower self-esteem spent more time interacting and playing with their children, controlling for fathers' ethnicity, employment status of both mother and father, family income, and fathers' nurturance (Fagan 1998). The direction of this association was contrary to the author's hypothesis, who surmised that a lower sense of social adequacy may lead these fathers to choose to spend more time with their children. A third study (Dechman 1994) found that fathers with higher self-esteem were more likely to have positive relationships with their 5- to 11-year-old children, controlling for fathers' age education, and average number of hours spent at work.

Antisocial behavior. Only one study examined indicators of fathers' antisocial behavior as predictors of parenting using multivariate and longitudinal methods. Combining information from state records of fathers' arrests and license suspensions, self-reported substance use, and scores on a personality test, Patterson and Capaldi (1991) did not find a link between fathers' antisocial behavior when their child was in fourth grade and their discipline and monitoring practices two years later. Jaffee et al. (2001) conducted multivariate analysis and found a significant association between antisocial behavior and parenting-specifically, fathers who spent less time living with their children reported more criminal convictions and types of criminal offenses, controlling for marital status.

Psychiatric health. One study examined associations between fathers' psychiatric health and parenting behaviors. Johnson et al. (2004) used data on 782 families followed during the childhood and adolescent years of their offspring. Mothers reported on fathers' past and current psychiatric symptoms when children were 14 years old. Using this information, the researchers determined which fathers met the diagnostic criteria for particular disorders. The researchers then compared the frequency of maladaptive paternal behaviors of fathers (based on maternal reports) with and without a history of psychiatric disorders, controlling for maternal education, family income, and offspring psychiatric disorders. Results showed that history of conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and substance use disorder were each independently related to a higher frequency of maladaptive paternal parenting behaviors.

Identity as a parent. Freeman and colleagues (2008) found that fathers who believed that part of their role as a parent includes preparing child for school played more frequently with their children and participated in caregiving tasks, controlling for demographic and risk factors. LeBourdais et al. (2002) found that nonresidential fathers' satisfaction with their custody arrangements and satisfaction with the amount of time they spent with their children was associated with greater time spent with their children post-divorce, but they did not find a significant association between these fathers' perceptions as a father compared to his own father and the amount of time he spent with his children post-divorce.

Identity as a man. Ferrari (1999) found that fathers reporting higher machismo were more likely to use physical punishment with their children, controlling for ethnicity, strong orientation toward family ("familism"), and history of childhood abuse and neglect. Coltrane et al. (2004) found, in a study of 167 couples of Mexican descent, that a stronger identification with their Mexican heritage predicted fathers' greater supervision of their children.

2. Predictors of Partner Relationship Outcomes

Antisocial behavior. Florsheim et al. (1999) analyzed data on expectant adolescent fathers from two cities and found that antisocial behavior prior to the birth of their first child was significantly related to poorer quality relationships with their partners (in both cities) 12 to 18 months after birth, controlling for socioeconomic status and interpersonal hostility.

Identity as a man. Caputo (2006) did not find a significant association between unmarried fathers' attitudes about gender roles in the household when their child was born and their living arrangements (for example, married, cohabiting) with their partner after one year.

3. Predictors of Employment Outcomes

Identity as a parent. Bialik (2011) coded interviews conducted with fathers in Early Head Start about their role in their child's life and found that fathers who strongly identified with a "procreative" role (characterized by nurturance, guidance, sacrifice, and commitment) were more likely to be continuously employed, controlling for poverty, residential status, education and race/ethnicity.

4. Predictors of Father Well-Being Outcomes

Personality. Boyce et al. (2007) found that expectant fathers exhibiting higher levels of neuroticism also had higher levels of psychological distress, controlling for other personality traits and attachment to their own parents in childhood. Sloper and Turner (1993) found a similar relationship between neuroticism and psychological distress in a sample of fathers of children with disabilities.

Self-esteem. Frost (1997) found that expectant fathers with higher self-esteem before their child's birth were less likely to experience postpartum distress (controlling for concurrent parenting stress and infant irritability, pre-birth marital concerns, and depression of the father and his wife). Dechman (1994) found that fathers with higher self-esteem were more likely to report being happy (controlling for fathers' age, education, and average number of hours spent at work).

Antisocial behavior. Florsheim et al. (1999) found a significant association between fathers' antisocial behavior prior to the birth of their first child and parenting stress post-birth. This significant association was found in only one of two groups of fathers examined in the study.

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