African American Fathers in Low Income, Urban Families: Development, Behavior, and Home Environment of Their Three-Year-Old Children

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Abstract

This study examined the relationship between paternal roles, regardless of residence, and the well-being of 175 3-year-old children from low income, African American families. There were no differences in children's cognition, receptive language, behavior, or home environment related to father presence. Fathers (or father figures) were identified in 73% of the families, and 64% participated in an interview and videotaped observation. The relationships between paternal roles (parenting satisfaction, economic support, nurturance during play, child care, and household responsibilities) and children's cognitive skills, receptive language, behavior, and home environment were examined. After controlling for maternal age, education, and parenting satisfaction, there were significant relationships between paternal roles and each index of children's well-being, suggesting that fathers' contributions were unique. Fathers who were satisfied with parenting, contributed financially to the family, and were nurturant during play had children with better cognitive and language competence; fathers who were satisfied with parenting and employed, had children with fewer behavior problems; and when fathers were living with the child, the home was more child-centered. Neither the biological relationship of the father nor the parents' marital status entered into the models. These findings support ecological theories linking paternal involvement with children's well-being and argue for the institution of family-oriented policies that promote positive father involvement.

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