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J Adolesc Health. 2002 Sep;31(3):266-76.

Young, disadvantaged fathers' involvement with their infants: an ecological perspective.

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Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To investigate fathers' involvement with their children using an ecological model, multiple respondents, and a comprehensive definition of fathers' involvement. The study's primary objectives were: (a) to describe the characteristics of fathers whose infants are born to low-income, urban, African-American adolescent mothers; (b) to describe the ways in which fathers are involved with their children; and (c) to identify factors associated with fathers' involvement.


A total of 181 first-time mothers (aged <18 years) living in three-generation households (infant, mother, and grandmother) were recruited from three urban hospitals shortly after delivery and invited to participate in a longitudinal study of parenting. Mothers provided the name of their infant's father; 109 (60%) of the fathers also agreed to participate. Baseline interviews of mothers, fathers, and grandmothers addressed demographic characteristics, relationships, and the father's involvement with his child.


Three multivariate regression models were used to identify factors associated with paternal involvement, explaining 35% to 51% of the variability in father involvement. Regardless of the respondent (mother, father, or grandmother), paternal involvement was predicted most strongly by the quality of the parents' romantic relationship. The father's employment status, the maternal grandmother's education, and the father's relationship with the baby's maternal grandmother were also associated with paternal involvement.


The study confirmed the value of an ecological perspective that uses multiple informants and a comprehensive definition of father involvement that includes multiple role functions. Efforts to increase paternal involvement should help young parents separate the father's relationship with their child from the romantic relationship between the mother and father, address the roles played by maternal grandmothers, and assist fathers to complete their education, and obtain and keep jobs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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