Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
A cohort study was conducted to examine the association between father involvement and child neglect. Participants were recruited from an inner-city pediatric primary care clinic and a clinic for children at risk for human immunodeficiency virus infection in a teaching hospital. Child neglect was measured via home observation, a videotaped mother-child interaction, and child protective services reports. A father or father figures was identified for 27 percent of the 244 five-year-old children participating in the study. Rates of neglect ranged between 11 percent and 30 percent. Father absence alone was not associated with neglect. However, in families with an identified and interviewed father, a longer duration of involvement, a greater sense of parenting efficacy, more involvement with household tasks, and less involvement with child care were associated with less neglect. The overall model explained 26.5 percent of the variance in neglect. There is substantial involvement of fathers in a subset of this high-risk sample, although more than a quarter of the children lacked a father or father figure. The mere presence of a father did not significantly influence the neglect of the children; rather, the nature of his involvement did. Fathers who felt more effective as parents were less likely to have neglected their children. A greater sense of efficacy may reflect parenting skills and be important in enhancing the contribution of fathers to their children's well- being. Pediatric health care providers can play a valuable role in enhancing the involvement and skills of fathers. 52 references and 4 tables. (Author abstract)
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