Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences
The purpose of this study was to examine the direct, mediating, and moderating effects of nonresident fathers' involvement on children's development in poor and near-poor African American single-mother families, using a longitudinal dataset from the first three waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Based on Bronfenbrenner's (1988) person-process-context ecological model, this study investigated whether nonresident fathers' involvement with poor and near-poor single mothers and their children would be associated with the mothers' parenting and the children's behavioral and cognitive development over time (birth to age 3), whether the nonresident fathers' involvement with the mothers and children would mediate the influences on the children's behavioral and cognitive development of their mothers' economic circumstances, psychological functioning, and parenting activities, and whether nonresident fathers' involvement in these families would moderate any negative effects of the mothers' economic, psychological and parenting conditions and circumstances on the children's behavioral and cognitive outcomes. The hypothesized effect of father-involvement on child outcomes was partially confirmed; that is, the frequency of fathers' contact with their children was positively associated with their children's cognitive development, but the quality of father-involvement--measured by mothers' perceptions of their parenting--did not achieve significance as a direct predictor of either child outcome in these data. Regarding the mediating effects (the structural parameters in the structural equation models), the frequency of fathers' contact with their children was associated with the children's cognitive and behavioral development through its associations with maternal depressive symptoms and the mothers' parenting. In addition, the quality of fathers' parenting was also associated with child outcomes transmitted through mothers' parenting adequacy. Unexpectedly, no significant moderation effects were found in these data. If valid, these results suggest that current policy initiatives to promote responsible fatherhood and father involvement should be encouraged. Programs and interventions that aim to sustain healthy relationships between fathers and children and cooperative relationships between parents should also be promoted. In addition, the present findings add to studies that have found that economic hardship is a key link between poverty and mothers' psychological and parenting functioning. Policy and program initiatives, accordingly, should focus on reducing economic hardship and increasing family economic well-being, as well as on improving relationship skills between mothers and the nonresident fathers of their children. Such initiatives might result in better outcomes for poor and near-poor African American children. (Author abstract)
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