Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Father's nurturance as related to social class and authoritarianism

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  • The purpose of this exploratory study was to develop hypotheses about the relationships between nurturance in fathers to their small children and independent variables thought to be associated with fathers' nurturance. A second purpose was to attempt to clarify the father role in contemporary American society. The literature of child development and psychology reveals that fathers have been thought to be unimportant in childrearing and inaccessible for research. They have been considered unimportant when compared with the mother and also weak when compared with fathers of the past. Fathers were considered inaccessible for research apparently because researchers were unwilling to adapt their schedules to those of fathers. Mothers who work full time are inaccessible for similar reasons. The information for this study was collected through interviews with a stratified random sample of 42 fathers. As preparation, the literature of child development, child psychology, family studies, sociology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and social work was reviewed for information on the relationships between fathers and their small children. Seven specialists were interviewed for their observations, ideas, opinions, and insights about fathers and small children based on their working experience. Insight-stimulating examples from the investigator's observations and experiences were analyzed to suggest areas to be covered in the study. A pilot study served as a pretest of the interview schedule developed to collect the data for the study. Fathers' nurturance was measured by the Fathers' Nurturance Scales (FaNS) developed for this study to measure aspects of care-taking activities, play, and emotional investment of fathers. Social class, the primary independent variable of interest, was measured by an index of self-direction in occupation, developed from ideas of Kohn (1969). Authoritarianism, the other principal variable of interest, was measured by the Traditional Family Ideology Scale (TFI) (Levinson and Huffman, 1955). The data were analyzed by a multiple regression program which constructed a model of significant independent variables associated with the dependent variable, Y (FaNS). The independent variables found significant, in order of their "importance" in contributing to the "explanation" of the variation in the FaNS scores were: How closely fathers felt they were supervised on the job, age of child, employment of mothers, fathers' work with data, people, and things, time spent with child, age of father, and authoritarianism. The computer model thus produced a "type" of father which could be predicted to be nurturant to his small children (ages one to five). This father would be a man with a job in which he felt he was not closely supervised, with a child between one and two years of age, whose wife works full time, spends 50 or more hours in an average week with his child, is between 26 and 30 years of age, and who is "authoritarian" as measured by the TFI. An unexpected finding was that the more nurturant fathers were authoritarian. One hypothesis was proposed on the basis of the fathers' occupational conditions. Speculative interpretations of the relationships between the independent variables making up the predictive model and the dependent variable, Y (FaNS), were offered. This study did not substantiate the assumptions found in the literature that fathers are unimportant in childrearing and inaccessible for research. In the regions surveyed in this study, no fathers were found inaccessible, nor were there any fathers who thought they were unimportant in childrearing. Neglect of fathers in research suggested to be part of neglect of many important areas in family study, perhaps due to over-simplified interpretations of family life by some students working in the field.
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