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


Cognitions refers broadly to an individual's beliefs and how he thinks about things, and includes his attitudes, expectations, attributions, self-beliefs, and behavioral intentions. Psychosocial predictors found in this category include parenting attitudes, gender-role attitudes, attitudes toward marriage or relationships, and work-related attitudes, as well as self-efficacy and beliefs about individual control over fatherhood-related outcomes.

Of the 64 studies we reviewed, 15 examined predictors related to these cognitions (see Table VI.1).

·      Most of these studies (10 of 15) examined parenting outcomes, and 5 found significant associations.

·      Five studies examined links to father well-being, and two found significant associations.

·      Three explored partner relationship outcomes, and two found significant associations.

·      One examined employment outcomes and found a significant association.

·      None of these studies of cognition-related predictors examined child-support outcomes.

Appendix Table E.6 is a description of the variables examined in each study, and indicates which variables were found to be related to key fatherhood outcomes. Findings are summarized below.

1. Predictors of Parenting Outcomes

Parenting attitudes. Three studies used multivariate methods to investigate the relationship between fathers' parenting attitudes and actual parenting practices. Two studies found a significant association, although one result was contrary to the author's hypothesis. Ferrari (1999) found that fathers who had higher scores on a measure of "valuing children" rated child maltreatment scenarios more severely, but also used verbal punishment at significantly higher rates. The author posits that fathers who value children more may view verbal punishment as less harmful to children compared to physical punishment. LeBourdais and colleagues (2002) examined cross-sectional data from the Canadian General Social Survey and found that nonresident fathers who reported that they were happy to have had a child tended to spend more time with their children post-divorce, controlling for a range of demographic characteristics of both the child and father. Coohey (2000) tested whether physically abusive fathers had different attitudes toward the use of harsh discipline compared to a group of non-abusive fathers but did not find a statistically significant result.

Gender role attitudes. The relationship between gender role attitudes and parenting was examined in three multivariate studies but only one found a statistically significant result. Coltrane and colleagues (2004) analyzed data on 167 low- to moderate-income two-parent Mexican American families and found that fathers with more traditional views about gender roles shouldered fewer hours of household labor and child supervision/monitoring, and also engaged in less interaction with their children, controlling for child gender, family income, and employment. Shields (1998) did not find a significant association between attitudes towards sex role egalitarianism and parenting. Similarly, LeBourdais and colleagues (2002) did not find evidence that beliefs about whether tasks related to children are men's responsibility are related to the time nonresident fathers spend with their children.

Work-related attitudes. Paquette and colleagues (2000) examined whether fathers with different parenting styles had different levels of job satisfaction and job involvement but did not find significant results.

Self-efficacy. Two multivariate studies examined self-efficacy as a predictor of parenting. Freeman et al. (2008) found that father efficacy was significantly associated with fathers' engagement with their children. In contrast, Guzell and colleagues (2001) did not find a significant association between parental self-efficacy and parenting interactions.

Responsibility or perceived control. Freeman at al. (2008) conducted multivariate analysis and found that fathers who perceive greater responsibility for their child's learning tended to interact with their children and participate in caregiving tasks more frequently. In contrast, in a sample of 66 dual-earner families, Guzell (2001) did not find a significant link between fathers' perceived control over caregiving outcomes and observed interactions with their 1-year old children during a play activity, after controlling for infant difficulty and fathers' knowledge of infant development.

2. Predictors of Partner Relationship Outcomes

Attitudes toward marriage or relationships. Caputo (2006) used data from the Fragile Families Study to examine whether unmarried fathers' attitudes toward marriage and distrust of the opposite sex assessed when their child was born predicted their living arrangements (married, cohabiting, and so on) with their partner after one year; neither of the predictors was found to be statistically significant.

3. Predictors of Employment Outcomes

Parenting attitudes. Knoester et al. (2007) analyzed data on 2,494 new fathers from the Fragile Families study to examine whether paternal attitudes toward parenting at the time of their child's birth and subsequent changes in attitudes[3] were related to changes in hours of paid labor one year after birth. Results showed that fathers who had more positive attitudes toward fathering at birth had increased work hours one year post birth. Moreover, change in positive attitude toward fathering was also related to employment. Specifically, fathers whose parenting attitudes became more positive after a year had reduced substance use and more paid work hours, whereas fathers whose parenting attitudes became less positive had increased substance use and lower work hours.

4. Predictors of Father Well-being Outcomes

Parenting attitudes. Knoester et al. (2007) found that change in positive attitude toward fathering was related to father well-being. Fathers who demonstrated improvements in parenting attitudes one year after their child was born had reduced substance use whereas fathers whose attitudes became less positive had increased substance use.

Self-efficacy. Frost (1997) found that fathers' feelings of incompetence postpartum was associated with elevated levels of postbirth depression, anxiety, and anger, even after controlling for pre-birth levels of well-being.

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