The complexity of nonresident father involvement in low-income families : mothers' perspectives Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/1831cn09b

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  • The two studies of this dissertation examined mothers' perspectives of nonresident fathers' involvement in low-income families. The overall goal of these studies was to gain a more comprehensive understanding of nonresident fathers' involvement and its effect on family well-being. In the first study I applied a relatively new methodology, zero-inflated negative binomial regression, to overcome the methodological shortcomings of previous studies. The models (N=1215) examined what factors predicted two aspects, presence and level, of father-child contact and paternal engagement. Different factors were found to influence presence of father-child contact and frequency of contact. Similarly, different factors predicted presence of paternal engagement and level of engagement. Thus, a nonresident father's decision to be involved in his child's life may be a fundamentally different decision than how much he is involved. In addition, parents' positive relationship--romantic relationship and higher quality of relationship--was found to be the major predictor influencing all outcome variables. It appears that a positive co-parental relationship is central to nonresident father involvement. In my second study, I qualitatively examined rural mothers' perceptions of nonresident fathers' involvement (N=83). Specifically, I investigated whether mothers are really "gatekeeping" the father involvement, as suggested by previous research. There was no simple yes/no answer to this question, rather, results suggested that whether a mother acts as a gatekeeper of her children depends on her unique circumstances. Mothers, by at large, wanted the nonresident fathers to be involved in their children's lives and to perform responsible fathering, but mothers' expectations of the fathers' roles may be narrowly defined and, therefore, easily violated. Some mothers did intentionally refuse or limit father-child contact in cases where they believed that father involvement would threaten the safety of their children. In these cases, "gatekeeping" behavior can be viewed as one survival strategy for the mothers. The two studies presented here collectively demonstrate the complexity of non-resident father's involvement and provide insight that will be useful for policy targeted to low-income families.
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