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


Personal history refers to the father's past experiences that may have a bearing on his current functioning as a father. Personal history variables uncovered in our review include the nature of the father's relationship with his parents and the parenting he received as a child, the quality of his parents' relationship during childhood, and the father's behavioral adjustment as a child.

Just over one-quarter of all reviewed studies examined variables reflecting a father's personal history as predictors of one or more key fatherhood outcomes (see Table VI.1).

·      The most common outcome examined was parenting, assessed in 17 of the 18 studies. Thirteen studies found a significant association.

·      Four studies examined the relationship between fathers' personal history and their well-being in adulthood; two found a significant association.

·      Two studies estimated the effect of personal history on fathers' partner relationships; one found a significant association.

·      We found no studies that estimated the effects of fathers' personal histories on their employment or child support outcomes in adulthood.

Appendix Table E.1 provides a list of the personal history variables examined in each study, and indicates which variables were predictive of which outcome(s). Findings are summarized below.

1. Predictors of Parenting Outcomes

Quality of parenting. Results from two multivariate, longitudinal studies showed that the quality of the parenting fathers received as a child predicted the quality of their own parenting. Kerr et al. (2009) used data from a prospective, intergenerational study to investigate whether fathers who received "constructive parenting" (monitoring, discipline, warmth, and involvement) in childhood were more likely to engage in constructive parenting with their own children. Using path modeling, they found that the constructive parenting a father received in late childhood directly predicted the quality of his own parenting of his 2- to 3-year old child. In addition, the constructive parenting fathers received also influenced their own parenting indirectly by affecting adjustment during the adolescent years. Fathers who received constructive parenting were better adjusted in adolescence and subsequently provided higher quality parenting as adults. Capaldi et al. (2008) examined whether fathers' reports regarding the quality and effectiveness of discipline they received from their parents were related to their current disciplinary practices with their children. Using structural equation models, they found a direct link between the discipline fathers received from their own parents and their current disciplinary practices, even with SES, age at first birth, and risky behaviors also entered as predictors in the model. Jaffee and colleagues (2001) also conducted longitudinal analyses but did not find a link. However, using longitudinal data on a cohort of children from New Zealand followed from age 3 to age 26, they tested whether fathers who experienced harsh or inconsistent discipline from their own parents during childhood spend less time with their own children, and did not find a statistically significant link. Three other studies examined the quality of parenting received as a child using multivariate but not longitudinal methods; two of the three yielded statistically-significant results.

Residence with parents or caretakers in childhood. Two studies used multivariate and longitudinal analyses to examine whether living arrangements with parents or caretakers in childhood is related to parenting. Jaffee et al. (2001) did not find significant associations between the number of caretaker changes and number of years living with a single mother and the amount of time fathers spend with their own children. In contrast, Shields (1998) found that fathers who spent a greater number of years living with biological father in childhood demonstrated higher levels of involvement with their own children.

Quality of relationship with parents during childhood. Three studies used multivariate and longitudinal methods to analyze the quality of a father's relationship with his parents growing up. Jaffee et al. (2001) found that fathers who experienced poor parent-child relationship quality with their own parents growing up subsequently spent less time with their own children, controlling for other risk factors such as socioeconomic status, being born to a teenage mother, high school dropout status, and age at birth of first child. However, family conflict was not found to be a statistically-significant predictor. Shields (1998) tested the relationship between fathers' perceived similarities with their own father and paternal involvement in parenting and found a statistically significant positive relationship, controlling for demographic characteristics. Five studies used multivariate methods-three of which documented significant associations. For example, Wright (2004) found, in a sample of 101 married African American fathers, that fathers with higher quality relationships with their own fathers and who reported greater perceived similarities between their fathers' and their own parenting styles demonstrated higher levels of father role salience and father role satisfaction, controlling for age, level of education, and the quality of their relationship with their child's mother.

Adult attachment. Two multivariate studies examined whether fathers' attachment style in adulthood is related to their parenting. Paquette et al. (2000) found that fathers with more secure attachment in their social relationships were more likely to be stimulative parents. Roggman et al. (2002) tested whether fathers' relationship anxiety (measured with the Adult Attachment Scale prior to enrollment in Early Head Start) was related to father involvement while in the program. They did not find a statistically significant association after controlling for education, depression, social support, and religious activity.

Psychological well-being and adjustment as a child. Two studies examined and found that childhood well-being and adjustment predicted fathers' parenting as an adult. Jaffee and colleagues (2001) found that fathers with a history of conduct disorder (diagnosed between the ages of 11 and 15) spent less time living with their children; however, history of depression was not a significant predictor. Temcheff (2008) used data from a longitudinal study of children from inner-city schools in Montreal and determined that fathers who exhibited high levels of childhood aggression were subsequently more likely to use violence toward their own children. By contrast, childhood withdrawal was not a significant predictor.

2. Predictors of Partner Relationship Outcomes

Psychological well-being and adjustment as a child. Temcheff (2008) found that fathers with higher levels of childhood aggression reported higher levels of physical violence toward their spouses as adults. In the same study, childhood withdrawal was not a significant predictor.

3. Predictors of Father Well-Being Outcomes

Quality of parenting. Patterson and Capaldi (1991) found that fathers who reported that their parents used abusive and explosive discipline practices exhibited more antisocial behaviors (for example, arrests, driver's license suspensions, and substance abuse) in adulthood. In contrast, Locke and Newcombe (2004) did not find a statistically significant relationship when they tested whether fathers' self-reported history of child maltreatment predicted fathers' current substance abuse.

Quality of relationship with parents during childhood. Dechman (1994) found that fathers' relationship with their own mothers predicted their well-being as adults-specifically, fathers who reported a positive relationship with their mothers were happier and had higher levels of self-esteem as adults. In contrast, Boyce et al. (2007) did not find a significant association between a father's perceptions of their relationship with his father or mother or parental overprotection and his current levels of psychological distress.

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