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Keywords:

  • Applications of theory and method;
  • fathers;
  • identity theory;
  • metatheory and theory development

Identity theory explains behaviors as socially constructed phenomena that result from the expectations we hold and the feedback we receive about how to fulfill the statuses we occupy. However, identity theory inadequately addresses the myriad contexts that influence identity and behavior, a weakness particularly relevant to fathering research. Here, we suggest ways of refining identity theory to better account for context—specifically, interpersonal and environmental contexts. We discuss conceptual and methodological issues created by current deficits in identity theory and propose 2 new constructs (unsupportive commitment and contextual commitment). We apply our theoretical refinements to fathering by drawing examples from the empirical literature. Finally, we suggest additional areas of inquiry that would benefit from the proposed refinements to identity theory.