In recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding the role of fathers in child-rearing, particularly noncustodial fathers who often face unique challenges in maintaining relationships with their children. Stereotypes and societal expectations have historically portrayed fathers as less involved in parenting compared to mothers, with a primary focus on being breadwinners. This perspective, however, overlooks the emotional connections fathers have with their children and their desire to be actively involved in their lives.
A research paper by Janice H. Laakso & Sheri Adams from 2006 sheds light on the experiences of noncustodial fathers who believe they can be as competent as mothers in raising their children. The study explores the challenges these fathers face in maintaining relationships with their children and their ongoing struggle to navigate a system that appears to favor maternal involvement. In doing so, the paper challenges conventional stereotypes of noncustodial fathers and highlights the need for policy changes to better support their involvement in their children’s lives.
Fathers do care about their children
First, the research paper discusses the involvement of noncustodial fathers in their children’s lives and the factors that influence their level of involvement. Key findings include:
- Fathers do care about their children, even if they show it in unconventional ways (Sylvester & Reich, 2002, p. 19).
- The father’s family of origin and relationship with their own father can impact their feelings about fatherhood and their level of involvement with their own children (Parke, 1996; Allen & Doherty, 1996; Sylvester & Reich, 2002; Johnson, 2001).
- Fathers’ commitment to parenting can be influenced by factors such as the quality of their relationship with the mother and institutional practices (Doherty et al., 1998; Parke, 1996).
- Noncustodial fathers often make both financial and in-kind contributions to their children’s lives whenever possible (Furstenberg et al., 1992; Edin, 1995; Edin & Lein, 1997; McLanahan & Carlson, 2002).
- Marital status does not generally affect father involvement in child-related activities (Minton & Pasley, 1996).
4 Factors that “block” father’s involvement with their children:
Next, This research paper discusses the barriers to fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives. The study found four main factors that impact fathers’ involvement with their children: safety concerns, relationship with the mother, the child support system, and the influence of the family of origin.
Safety concerns can lead to mothers restricting fathers’ access to their children. The relationship between parents is crucial for fathers to be involved with their children, with higher levels of involvement found when there is less interparental conflict. The child support system also plays a role in fathers’ involvement, as studies suggest a correlation between child support payments and contact between fathers and their children. However, this relationship is complex and may be influenced more by relationship issues than financial matters.
The study is based on the exchange theory, which suggests that fathers will make choices that bring the best financial and psychological rewards for themselves and their children. Fathers who believe that paying child support will result in a satisfactory parenting plan are more likely to comply with orders.
The study involved 25 fathers who were clients of Devoted Dads, a responsible fatherhood program in western Washington State. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed to identify common themes and patterns.
The findings highlight four prominent themes explaining fathers’ level of involvement with their children:
- Family of origin influences fathers.
- Fathers were committed to being part of their child’s life.
- Behaviors of both mothers and fathers lead to relationship issues that interfere with father-child relationships.
- Courts are biased towards mothers.
The results emphasize the importance of addressing these factors to increase fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives.
The blocking of visitation starts before divorce/separation
This research paper discusses the complex dynamics between fathers, mothers, and their children, focusing on the impact of the parents’ relationship on fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives. The study found that even when fathers have a long-term relationship with the mothers, it does not guarantee their regular involvement with their children. The paper highlights that the quality of the parents’ relationship plays a significant role in fathers’ parenting opportunities. Furthermore, the fathers’ stories shared in the paper reveal their struggles with custody and parenting rights and the perceived bias of the legal system against them.
Key findings include:
- In 50% of the 36 relationships studied, the parents stayed involved with each other for at least 5 years, but only 10 of the 18 fathers are seeing their children regularly.
- In the 19 relationships where the couple had a poor relationship at the time of the study, 14 (74%) were not seeing their child on a regular basis.
- Fathers reported domestic violence from mothers, as well as other behaviors like infidelity and substance abuse, which led them to question custody decisions.
The paper shares three in-depth stories of fathers with different living arrangements with the mothers, illustrating how the mothers’ actions can prevent fathers from staying involved with their children even when they have a strong desire to do so. The fathers believe that the legal system is biased against them and that the child-support system is more interested in financial remuneration than in the parenting component. Many fathers are paying child support but not seeing their children, which adds credibility to this belief.
Time to remove the stereotype of “father doesn’t care about children”
In all, this research paper discusses the experiences of fathers who feel they can be as competent as mothers in raising their children. Many fathers in the study have chosen to stay with the mothers of their children, acknowledge paternity, and provide for their children. They expect to have access to their children even if their relationships with the mothers end. Fathers who have not been involved in their children’s lives often experience guilt and self-blame (Kissman, 2001). These fathers expect to see their children regularly in exchange for paying child support.
However, the study found that these fathers struggle to maintain relationships with their children. They often need to rely on the mothers’ willingness to let them see their children, which can be influenced by unresolved anger or resentment. The study also highlights that some mothers might not provide the best parenting due to their own personal problems. Fathers feel that their involvement with their children is a privilege based on mothers’ prerogatives, their ability to pay, court biases, and society’s stereotypes of noncustodial fathers.
In short, the findings of this study clearly overthrew the stereotype that fathers have little interest in parenting or in being closely involved with their children.