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Urban low-Income fathers and children’s wellbeing

Natasha Cabrera, Human Development

The purpose of the study is to understand the nature, type, and frequency of father involvement and explore associations between father-child interactions and children’s cognitive and social development in an underrepresented group of low-income, ethnically diverse urban families. Participants will be the partners of 125 women whose children (0-36 months) are enrolled in three Early Head Start centers in the Washington, D.C. area.  Fathers will be interviewed about their role, responsibilities, and relationships with the mother of their child, and their interactions with their children will be videotaped at baseline and 6-months-follow-up. Using developmental and family systems models, four research questions frame this study: (1) how are low-income fathers engaged, accessible to, and responsible for their children? What are these men’s parenting behaviors? (2) How do father’s mental health and competence influence parenting behaviors and father involvement? (3) Are patterns of father involvement associated with children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development? Are parenting behaviors associated with children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development? (4) Does the relationship between father involvement and children’s outcomes vary by child gender, mother-father relationship, and fathers’ characteristics (education, employment, mental health, residence status)? Findings from this  will give us insight into the variation in father involvement among low income men, on whom there is a dearth of information, and will illuminate a major theoretical and conceptual gap in the literature- what types of father involvement are linked to what outcomes for children.

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