Date of Award:

1-1-2002

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Randall M. Jones

Abstract

This study examined some of the factors that influence father involvement for first time parent s. These variables included: general or cultural attitudes of father involvement, personal expectations for father involvement, and level of satisfaction with the marriage. A secondary purpose was to examine factors that buffer the decline of marital satisfaction associated with the transition to parenthood. It was proposed that marital satisfaction was associated with having similar expectations for father involvement, having father involvement that met or exceeded personal expectations, and accurately perceiving spousal identity. A final purpose was to create a model of father invol vement, originally represented by the level of time, awareness, and support a father provides for his child.

Ninety-six couples enrolled in two prenatal classes participated in this study. Both mothers and fathers were given nearly identical surveys for the prenatal (or the third trimester of pregnancy) and postnatal (when the target child was between 3 and 6 months old) phases of the study With a 29% attrition rate, the final sample consisted of68 couples.

The results indicated that postnatal father involvement was predicted by the level of marital satisfaction and also by the personal expectations that both spouses have for father involvement. Results failed to support the hypotheses that father involvement would be significantly related to prenatal general attitudes of father involvement. However, there was some support that general (or cultural) attitudes change as a fun ction of personal experience for father s; the standard set for other fathers seems to be based from and conform to their own level of involvement.

As expected, postnatal marital satisfaction for both spouses was strongly related to father involvement. Although postnatal marital satisfaction was slightly related to the similarity in spouses' expectations for father involvement, the exploratory analysis shows that spouses with high personal expectations for father involvement (during the prenatal phase) tend to experience high levels of postnatal marital satisfaction, regardless of similarity of expectations between spouses. There was a general trend for postnatal marital satisfaction to be high when father involvement met or exceeded personal expectations, and low when father involvement fell short of personal expectations. The exception is when expectations were high; spouses with high expectations tend to report high levels of postnatal marital satisfaction regardless of whether father involvement met, surpassed, or fell short of those expectations. Contrary to expectations, accurately perceiving spousal identity was not related to marital satisfaction. Implications are given.

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