The History of Research on Father Involvement: An Overview.

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Lamb, M. E.
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Social scientists' understanding and conceptualization of fatherhood and father involvement have changed over time. Fatherhood has always been a multifaceted concept, although the dominant or defining motif has shifted in turn from moral guidance to breadwinning to sex-role modeling, marital support, and finally nurturance. As a result of these changing concepts, the extent of father involvement has been viewed and indexed in different ways at different times. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, at a time when societal concerns about the effects of fatherlessness were coming to the fore, researchers became much more interested in quantification of concepts such as father involvement, motivated in part by the emergence and popularity of time-use methodologies. This prompted a shift from a focus on qualitative dimensions (such as masculinity and dominance) to quantifiable dimensions (the amount of time spent by fathers with their children). The emphasis on the quantifiable characteristics of fatherhood led to a restricted focus on paternal nurturance with little if any attention paid to the other functions or aspects of fatherhood. The narrowly focused view of fatherhood ignored subcultural variation in the definition and understanding of fatherhood. Social scientists are only now beginning to seek a broader and more inclusive understanding of fatherhood. Their efforts should permit more insightful research on the effects of variations in performance of the relevant roles. 48 references. (Author abstract)

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