1999-2003

Project Directors: Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., Heidi A. Vázquez García, Ph.D., Cynthia García Coll, Ph.D., Odette Alarcón, M.D., Jacqueline P. Fields, Ph.D.

Funder: Maternal and Child Health Bureau

This study utilized the data from interviews to determine what factors permeated the experiences of young Puerto Rican fathers.

The study of young Puerto Rican fathers was funded by a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The goal of the research was to investigate factors associated with different aspects of a random sample of young minority fathers’ involvement with their young children. Project staff included Laura Szalacha as methodologist, Sabrina Gonzalez as field coordinator, and Ineke Ceder as project administrator.

Father involvement
Fathers’ involvement with their offspring includes being a provider, which has been the most frequently studied topic, but also includes involvement in the upbringing of a child through the roles of disciplinarian, an educator and socializer, and caregiver.

Methods
In this study of Puerto Rican young fathers in the Northeast, we interviewed 275 Puerto Rican young fathers between ages 18 and 26 who had experienced the birth of a child in the past year and their children’s mother. We augmented these data with social and economic context information obtained at the census tract level of their residential communities. Fathers and mothers were interviewed separately by trained bilingual and bicultural interviewers. Interviewees received $25 for their time.

Results
Our results show that the provider aspect of father involvement is quite different from the other aspects. Father’s income was a significant predictor of whether the father reported providing all, part, or none of what the child needs. Curiously, the second best predictor was mother’s income but it was negatively related to father’s ability to provide. Other significant predictors were whether the couple was married, mother’s employment (negative effect), and father’s report of compatibility with the mother. Father’s global involvement with the upbringing of the baby (providing care taking activities, socializing, and disciplining the baby) was best predicted by variables that pertained to the father’s relationship with the mother: having few disagreements in decision making, whether mother has a job, and father’s report of his compatibility with the mother. Except for father’s income, in connection with providing financial resources, none of the factors having to do with father’s demographic characteristics (e.g., education, employment), his adaptation responses (acculturation, worry about discrimination), availability of social supports, nor characteristics of the baby (gender, easy baby) made as much a difference in fathers’ self reports of their involvement as did the mother-related variables.

Conclusion
The results support earlier studies’ findings regarding the importance of the relationship with the child’s mother as a factor in fathers’ involvement. But they go beyond the mothers’ role as a gate-keeper, allowing or not allowing access to the children. The results suggest that these young fathers’ tend to view their involvement with the baby in context of the relationship with the baby’s mother, regardless of whether the couple is married. The results support a companionate view of co-parenting. In families where the parents get along well with each other, the father’s involvement with the baby complements the assets (income and outside employment) the mother brings.

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