Father Responsivity: Couple Processes and the Coconstruction of Fatherhood



    1. Marriage and family therapist, Greensburg, PA; adjunct professor, Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA.
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    1. Professor and director of doctoral programs in MFT, Department of Counseling and Family Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA.
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  • The authors thank Dr. Scott Coltrane, Dr. Colwick Wilson, Dr. Curtis Fox, and Thomas Matta Ph.D. for their valuable contributions to this article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Dana Matta, 313 Unity Way Rear, Greensburg, PA 15601. E-mail: dsmattaphd@msn.com


Forty in-depth interviews of heterosexual parents of children 5 five years of age and younger are analyzed using a qualitative grounded theory approach to understand how couples coproduce fatherhood within their day-to-day relationships and in social, cultural, and economic contexts. The analysis identifies the construct “responsivity” as a central process through which, to varying degrees, fathers are aware of the needs of their wives and children and able to take an active part in meeting them. Three groups of fathers are examined according to their level of responsivity: low, moderate, and high. Factors influencing degree of father responsivity include gender constructions, power and the wife's influence, attunement, work schedules, and emotional tradeoffs. Implications for practice are suggested.