A positive co-parenting relationship with their child’s mother is strongly associated with both the quantity and quality of father involvement.1,2 When mothers support fathers’ relationships with their children and parents can cooperate with and support one another in raising their child, fathers see their children more, engage in more activities with them, and have more positive relationships with them.3,4,5 The quality of parents’ relationships also matter: mothers who have positive relationships with their children’s fathers are more likely to have positive co-parenting relationships with them.6 As a result, fathers who are in romantic relationships with their children’s mothers are consistently more likely to be involved with their children7,8 and to have higher-quality involvement9 than fathers who have no relationship with their children’s mothers.10
Fathers’ parenting skills and confidence are important predictors of father involvement. When fathers feel competent11 and believe that they can parent well,12 they spend more time with their children, take on more caretaking responsibilities, and engage more positively with their children.13,14 Increasing the amount of time they spend with their children allows fathers to build more parenting skills and efficacy;15,16 in turn, having parenting skills and efficacy is linked to increased involvement.17
Fathers who have positive beliefs about fatherhood and the importance of father involvement are more engaged with their children.18 On an individual level, fathers who understand and value their identity as fathers are more involved with their children and have higher-quality relationships with them.19,20 Research also suggests that men with more self-esteem and egalitarian beliefs about gender roles are more involved with their children because they are more willing to take part in caregiving and nurturing.21 Community cultures that express the norm that fathers are valuable and equal co-parents also contribute to fathers’ positive beliefs about fatherhood. Fathering and views of fathering are shaped in part by the broader community, including cultural norms, social support, and institutional practices.22
Economic stability is linked to fathers’ involvement with their children, particularly among fathers who view their role as a father as the provider.23,24 Among fathers who live with their children, men who are unemployed or feel that they are inadequate providers are less involved with their children and use fewer positive parenting behaviors.25 Nonresident fathers who provide either formal or informal support tend to have more contact with their children; furthermore, nonresident fathers who have more contact with their children tend to provide more informal support.26 In contrast, child support arrears can reduce fathers’ willingness or ability to engage with their children and the consequences of child support debt can inhibit fathers’ ability to spend time with their children and to regain economic stability.27
There are also a number of risk factors that predict lower father involvement.28 Fathers with a history of incarceration,29,30 abusive behavior,31 or drug and alcohol problems32 are less likely to have positive interactions or maintain contact with their children over time. Other risk factors for low father involvement include multipartner fertility,33 depressive symptoms,34 stress,35 unintended pregnancy or low prenatal involvement,36 and young age at the birth of the child.37 However, fathers’ resilience (e.g., employment, completion of education, family and social support) in the context of these risk factors is associated with fathers’ involvement with their children.38
For CFRP's work on fathers, go to Publications > Fatherhood.
1 Palkovitz, R., Fagan, J., & Hull, J. (2013). Coparenting and children’s well-being. In N. J. Cabrera & C. S. Tamis-LeMonda (Eds.), Handbook of father involvement (2nd ed., pp. 202–219). New York: Routledge.
2 Hohmann-Marriott, B. (2011). Coparenting and father involvement in married and unmarried coresident couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73(1), 296–309. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00805.x
3 Doherty, W. J., Kouneski, E. F., & Erickson, M. F. (1998). Responsible fathering: An overview and conceptual framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(2), 277. https://doi.org/10.2307/353848
4 Waller, M. R. (2012). Cooperation, conflict, or disengagement? Coparenting styles and father involvement in fragile families. Family Process, 51(3), 325–342. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2012.01403.x
5 Carlson, M. J., McLanahan, S. S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2008). Coparenting and nonresident fathers’ involvement with young children after a nonmarital birth. Demography, 45(2), 461–488. https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.0.0007
6 Varga, C. M., Gee, C. B., Rivera, L., & Reyes, C. X. (2017). Coparenting mediates the association between relationship quality and father involvement. Youth & Society, 49(5), 588–609. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X14548529
7 Gee, C. B., McNerney, C. M., Reither, M. J., & Leaman, S. C. (2007). Adolescent and young adult mothers' relationship quality during the transition to parenthood: Associations with father involvement in fragile families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(2), 213-224. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9130-x
8 Ryan, R. M., Kalil, A., & Ziol-Guest, K. M. (2008). Longitudinal patterns of non-residential fathers' involvement: The role of resources and relations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(4), 962-977. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00539.x
9 Marsiglio, W., Amato, P., Day, R. D., & Lamb, M. E. (2000). Scholarship on fatherhood in the 1990s and beyond. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(4), 1173–1191. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01173.x
10 McLanahan, S. S., & Beck, A. N. (2010). Parental relationships in fragile families. Future of Children, 20(2), 17–37. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20773693
11 Coley, R. L., & Hernandez, D. C. (2006). Predictors of paternal involvement for resident and nonresident low-income fathers. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1041–1056. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2061
12 Coleman, P. K., & Karraker, K. H. (1998). Self-efficacy and parenting quality: Findings and future applications. Developmental Review, 18(1), 47–85. https://doi.org/10.1006/drev.1997.0448
13 Jones, T. L., & Prinz, R. J. (2005). Potential roles of parental self-efficacy in parent and child adjustment: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 25(3), 341–363. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2004.12.004
14 Shumow, L., & Lomax, R. (2002). Parental efficacy: Predictor of parenting behavior and adolescent outcomes. Parenting, 2(2), 127–150. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327922PAR0202_03
15 Leerkes, E. M., & Burney, R. V. (2007). The development of parenting efficacy among new mothers and fathers. Infancy, 12(1), 45–67. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7078.2007.tb00233.x
16 Coley, R. L., & Hernandez, D. C. (2006). Predictors of paternal involvement for resident and nonresident low-income fathers. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1041–1056. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16220.127.116.111
17 Trahan, M. H. (2017). Paternal self-efficacy and father involvement: A bi-directional relationship. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000130
18 Favez, N., Tissot, H., Frascarolo, F., Stiefel, F., & Despland, J. N. (2016). Sense of competence and beliefs about parental roles in mothers and fathers as predictors of coparenting and child engagement in mother-father-infant triadic interactions: Parental sense of competence, beliefs, and coparenting. Infant and Child Development, 25(4), 283–301. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.1934
19 Goldberg, J. S. (2015). Identity and involvement among resident and nonresident fathers. Journal of Family Issues, 36(7), 852–879. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X13500963
20 Henley, K., & Pasley, K. (2005). Conditions affecting the association between father identity and father involvement. Fathering, 3(1), 59–80. Retrieved from http://www.mensstudies.info/OJS/index.php/FATHERING/article/view/224
21 Tamis-LeMonda, C., & Cabrera, N. (1999). Perspectives on father involvement: Research and social policy. Social Policy Report: Society for Research in Child Development, 13(2), 1–32.
22 Doherty, W. J., Kouneski, E. F., & Erickson, M. F. (1998). Responsible fathering: An overview and conceptual framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(2), 277. https://doi.org/10.2307/353848
23 Högnäs, R. S., & Williams, H. (2017). Maternal kinship involvement and father identity in fragile families. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 38(2), 249–262. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-016-9487-2
24 Ryan, R. M., Kalil, A., & Ziol-Guest, K. M. (2008). Longitudinal patterns of non-residential fathers' involvement: The role of resources and relations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(4), 962-977. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00539.x
25 Doherty, W. J., Kouneski, E. F., & Erickson, M. F. (1998). Responsible fathering: An overview and conceptual framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(2), 277. https://doi.org/10.2307/353848
26 Nepomnyaschy, L. (2007). Child support and father-child contact: Testing reciprocal pathways. Demography, 44(1), 93–112. https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2007.0008
27 Turner, K. J., & Waller, M. R. (2017). Indebted relationships: child support arrears and nonresident fathers’ involvement with children: Child support arrears and father involvement. Journal of Marriage and Family, 79(1), 24–43. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12361.
28 Waller, M. R., & Swisher, R. (2006). Fathers’ risk factors in fragile families: Implications for “healthy” relationships and father involvement. Social Problems, 53(3), 392–420. https://doi.org/10.1525/sp.2006.53.3.392.
29 Berger, L. M., & Langton, C. E. (2011). Young disadvantaged men as fathers. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 635, 56–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716210393648
30 Woldoff, R. A., & Washington, H. M. (2008). Arrested contact: The criminal justice system, race, and father engagement. The Prison Journal, 88(2), 179–206. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032885508319154.
31 Osborne, C., et al. (2013). A portrait of father involvement and support in the first three years after a nonmarital birth. Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin, LBJ School of Public Affairs, Child & Family Research Partnership. Retrieved from https://childandfamilyresearch.utexas.edu/portrait-father-involvement-an...
32 Fagan, J., & Lee, Y. (2012). Effects of fathers’ early risk and resilience on paternal engagement with 5-year-olds. Family Relations, 61(5), 878–892. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00741.x.
33 Harknett, K., & Knab, J. (2007). More kin, less support: Multipartnered fertility and perceived support among mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 237–253. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00356.x
34 Baker, C. E. (2014). African American fathers’ depression and stress as predictors of father involvement during early childhood. Journal of Black Psychology, 40(4), 311–333. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798413486480.
35 Fagan, J., Bernd, E., & Whiteman, V. (2007). Adolescent fathers’ parenting stress, social support, and involvement with infants. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2007.00510.x.
36 Bronte-Tinkew, J., Ryan, S., Carrano, J., & Moore, K. A. (2007). Resident fathers’ pregnancy intentions, prenatal behaviors, and links to involvement with infants. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(4), 977–999. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00425.x
37 Coley, R. L., & Chase-Lansdale, P. L. (1998). Adolescent pregnancy and parenthood: Recent evidence and future directions. American Psychologist, 53(2), 152–166. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.53.2.152.
38 Fagan, J., Palkovitz, R., Roy, K., & Farrie, D. (2009). Pathways to paternal engagement: Longitudinal effects of risk and resilience on nonresident fathers. Developmental Psychology, 45(5), 1389–1405. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015210