The impact of father involvement in family dynamics and child development - PIHM/GC/0008/2008 (2009-2011)

Project's Summary:

Social and historical contexts shape both popular and scholarly conceptions of children, families, and parenting, there for it is important, to study family interactions and children developmental outcomes, in the light of the present socio-economical context. While contemporaneous women are taking responsibilities both in the family, as well as in the professional sphere, a new image of men emphasizes a caring father, who is actively engaged in the daily live of his children, is emerging. The notion that both parents should share responsibilities and tasks in a more egalitarian way in the financial, domestic and child-care spheres is emerging, although this change is more modest than conveyed by popular belief. According to Wall (2005) the majority of the Portuguese population places a higher value on the mother in the role of caretaker than on the father. Data from the international inquiry "Families and gender roles" of 2002 disclose that 93% of the Portuguese consider that both men and women should contribute to the family income, however, 78% consider that children suffer when the mothers work and 43% of the population consider that the mothers should remain at home until the child is at least 6 years old, perceiving the mother’s job as having a negative impact on the development of affective relationships with the child. This is particularly relevant in a country that in 2006 had one of the highest percentages of women in the workforce in the EU, particularly in what concerns women with preschool children. In this study we will analyze fathers and mothers relative involvement in child related activities, in particularly their participation in: Direct Care; Indirect Care; Teaching/Discipline; Play and Leisure outdoors. Specifically if there is a shared participation or a traditional gender-biased division in a sample of Portuguese two-parent families, in which the mothers works full time and children attend Day-Care Center several hours a day. We will address the same question across different region of Portugal, comparing rural with urban areas and different socio cultural groups. Our second objective is to better understand the factors influencing the level of father involvement in their children’s lives, since maternal employment status per se is not a sufficient explanation for the degree and type of paternal participation. Actually, fathers may prefer to have a supportive role helping the mothers only when needed because they consider that mothers perform better the care tasks, while they themselves can be more active in other domains. Alternatively, mothers may actually not encourage fathers to participate, if they perceive childcare tasks as being their own maternal responsibility, and they may even consider that their husbands have fewer competencies in the area. So we will look at fathers and mothers beliefs and attitudes about their roles, as well as to children individual characteristics, age, gender and temperament.

The third goal is to study how the level of father’s involvement influences child social development. Our main hypothesis is that more involvement and shared participation from the father will have both a direct and an indirect effect on child social development. In a previous small study we looked at secure-base interactions with both parents. The results showed that fathers who provide more care had children with higher security scores. In the present study we want to replicate this result in a larger and more diverse socio cultural and ethnic sample. Fathers not only have a direct impact on their children by virtue of their interaction with them, but also an indirect one through the impact they have on other people, within the family, such as the mothers. In Gossens (1987) study when fathers shared with their wife care and play activities, it had a supportive role for the mother, having an indirect effect on child development. For example father’s involvement may contribute to a lower maternal separation anxiety and in this way contribute to a better mother child relation.

The study of the family’s ecology can contribute to a better understanding of the nature of child’s organization of relationships within the family micro-system and later social development. It is import to rethink the role of mothers and fathers. To encourage parents interested in fuller co-parenting and to better accommodate those already sharing childrearing tasks and responsibilities, numerous changes are needed. These include collectivity, eroding or ending the conventional gender role socialization, and encouraging both boys and girls to develop nurturing and caregiving skills and interests. Children need loving and competent parents, who can meet their needs and promote their emotional, cognitive, and physical growth and development. They can only stand to benefit when both parents are capable and committed to rearing them.

 

Objectives:

The main objective of the present project is to analyze fathers and mothers relative involvement in child related activities, in particularly their participation in: Direct Care; Indirect Care; Teaching/Discipline; Play and Leisure outdoors. Specifically if there is a shared participation or a traditional gender-biased division in a sample of Portuguese two-parent families, in which the mothers works full time and children attend Day-Care Center several hours a day. We will address the same question across different region of Portugal, comparing rural with urban areas and different socio cultural groups. Our second objective is to look at fathers and mothers beliefs and attitudes about their roles, as well as to children individual characteristics, age, gender and temperament. The third goal is to study how involvement and shared participation from the father will have both a direct and an indirect effect on child social development. Quality of father child interactions and children’s social competence in function of father involvement will be analyzed.

FCT Project

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