Father Involvement Essay

Cheap Custom Writing Service

Father involvement has been an area of study since the 1970s, with the majority of research completed after the mid-1980s. The term father involvement encompasses the number of hours fathers spend directly interacting with their children and being accessible to their children, as well as fathers’ investment in the parental role and associated responsibilities. In general, higher levels of father involvement are associated with better outcomes for children. Exceptions include involvement of antisocial fathers and involvement of fathers where there are high levels of interparental conflict, both of which are associated with negative outcomes for children. Fathers are less likely to be involved with their children when they are unemployed, when they have a conflict-laden relationship with their children’s mothers, and when they do not reside in the same home as their children. Age is also a predictor of involvement, with young fathers less likely to maintain involvement with their children, and older fathers showing particularly high levels of involvement. There appear to be more similarities than differences in fathers’ roles and in the predictors of father involvement across cultural, racial, and ethnic groups; however, there are still relatively few studies in this area. Even fewer studies have explored fathering in gay, bisexual, or transgender men.

The following sections provide a brief review of the definition of father involvement, the history and politics of father involvement, the benefits to children of having an involved father, and the predictors of father involvement.


The most widely accepted definition of father involvement is Michael Lamb’s tripartite division of such involvement into engagement, accessibility, and responsibility. Engagement, also called interaction, refers to direct, one-on-one interactions with the child (e.g., time spent playing with the child). Accessibility refers to times when a parent is available for interaction with the child, but is not presently engaged in direct interaction (e.g., when the parent is gardening while a child is playing in the yard). Responsibility refers to taking ultimate responsibility for ensuring the child’s welfare (e.g., ensuring that the child has clothes). A variety of measures have been used to track fathers’ engagement, accessibility, and responsibility, including time diaries, time estimates, activity frequency measure, relative engagement measures, and measures of fathers’ investment in the parental role. Recently, some scholars have started to purposefully use the term father involvement to denote only positive involvement with a child, rather than involvement in its original, content-free sense.


Social constructions of the role of fathers in child development have varied over history. During the 17th and 18th centuries, fathers were characterized as moral guides and teachers to their children. With industrialization, fathers’ role as breadwinner was stressed. Social disruption brought on by war and economic hardship during the 1930s and 1940s and the rise in popularity of psychoanalytic theories led to an emphasis on fathers as sex-role models for their sons. Finally, since the mid-1970s, emphasis has been placed on fathers as nurturing parents, actively involved in the day-to-day care of their children.

As the socially constructed role of fathers has changed, so has the relative amount of time that fathers spend with children. Averaging across studies prior to 1980, it is estimated that in U.S. families, fathers’ engagement was about one third of mothers’ and their accessibility was about one half that of mothers. In the mid-1980s and 1990s, fathers’ relative engagement and accessibility rose to 43% and 66%, respectively. Research conducted on fathers’ involvement since 1990 suggests still greater increases in the relative and absolute engagement of fathers with children. Similar trends have been documented in Canada, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands, and are likely in other industrialized nations. Changes over time in the amount of responsibility that fathers take for ensuring their children’s care have been measured less often and less consistently, and comparisons across time yield inconsistent findings.

Political Context

In the past two decades, fathering has become an important political issue in the United States, and to a somewhat lesser extent, in most other industrialized countries. Political focus on fathers, particularly father absence, has led to government funding for fathering initiatives, shifts in family law toward joint custody of children, support for implementing paternal work leave for child care, and a proliferation of fathering information, support, and intervention programs. Political mobilization around fathering in the United States is distinguished from similar movements in other industrialized nations by the strong moral and religious presence in much of the political rhetoric. Although some fathering rights groups and activists promote parental equity, a proportion of fathering involvement organizations in the United States are connected to socially conservative efforts to promote (heterosexual) marriage, reduce divorce, and reestablish men as the authority in the family.


Higher levels of father involvement have been associated with better outcomes for children, such as greater cognitive development, academic achievement, social competence, and with more adaptive and resilient emotional functioning. Children with involved fathers are also less likely to have negative outcomes such as school dropout and delinquency. The benefits of father involvement extend to the mother–child relationship, with associations to higher maternal sensitivity to their children and greater maternal emotional availability, patience, and flexibility. Relationships between father involvement and positive outcomes have been found regardless of the methods used to assess these variables and after accounting for the influence of differing levels of mother involvement.

There are at least two exceptions to the generally positive relationship between father involvement and positive child outcomes. First, high levels of interparental conflict are detrimental to children, and some research suggests that ongoing exposure to such conflict is a more important predictor of negative child outcomes than is father absence. Second, when fathers engage in high levels of antisocial behavior, rates of problem behaviors in children increase with higher levels of father involvement.

Among nonresident fathers, paying child support and having a close relationship predict positive child outcomes more strongly than frequency or duration of father–child contact. These results are similar to those from studies of resident fathers in suggesting that both the amount and the quality of involvement should be considered.



Fathers who are living with their children typically have much higher rates of involvement than fathers who are not. Nonresident fathers tend to be more involved during the preschool years and become increasingly less involved as children age.


Mothers’ and fathers’ employment both increase father involvement. Fathers’ involvement is consistently higher in two-parent families when mothers are working outside the home than when mothers are not employed. Father involvement is also higher when men are employed, and when they have higher education and income levels. Unemployed fathers are more likely to leave or limit their involvement with their families than employed fathers, and are less likely to take on parenting responsibilities. Fathers’ employment status appears to be particularly important to predicting men’s involvement when they are not living with their children. Specifically, when fathers are able to contribute financially, they are more likely to remain involved with their children. It is theorized that societal emphasis on the importance of fathers as breadwinners largely explains the relationship between fathers’ employment and their involvement with their children.

Relationship With Children’s Mother

Harmonious mother–father relationships are related to higher rates of father involvement, and conflict-laden relationships are associated with lower rates of father involvement. Conflict between mothers and fathers is a particularly strong predictor of low father involvement when parents do not live together.

Skills And Self-Confidence

Men with greater knowledge of parenting and men who feel competent to perform caregiving tasks tend to have higher levels of involvement with their children.


Men who become fathers when they are adolescents have the lowest rates of contact with their children. Older fathers (i.e., men who become fathers later than the norm) have the highest rates of involvement with their children and have been shown to be particularly responsive, affectionate, and likely to take on responsibilities for childcare tasks.

Characteristics Of The Child

Fathers spend more time with younger children than older children and with firstborn children than with later-born children. There is some research to suggest that fathers are also more involved with children who are more difficult to care for, such as children who were born prematurely or who have difficult temperaments. Earlier studies found that father involvement was higher for boys than girls, but more recent studies have found no effect for child gender.

Other Predictors

A number of other variables have been investigated as potential predictors of fathers’ involvement, with inconsistent results. These variables include fathers’ gender-role orientation, egalitarian gender-role attitudes, men’s perception of their own fathers, role salience, maternal gatekeeping, and fathers’ level of stress.


  1. Gavanas, A. (2004). Fatherhood politics in the United States. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  2. Jaffee, S. R., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., & Taylor, A. (2003). Life with (or without) father: The benefits of living with two biological parents depends on the father’s antisocial behavior. Child Development, 74, 109–126.
  3. Lamb, M. E. (2004). The role of fathers in child development (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.

This example Father Involvement Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

See also:


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality

Special offer!