Date of Award:

1999

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Randall Jones

Abstract

Although there has been a new wave of research on fathering, little has focused specifically on the father and son relationship during adolescence. Previous research has documented that fathers and their daughters tend to distance themselves and disengage at the onset of menarche; however, the study and analysis of what happens to fathers and sons during the onset of puberty has been practically neglected. Several studies through the mid 80s and early 90s documented that parents and children tend to separate during adolescence, but only scant research has been conducted since that time. The goal of this study was to advance the knowledge base of father and son relationships during adolescence by examining the associations between pubertal status and psychosocial status, pubertal status and father involvement and psychosocial status and father involvement. Erikson's theory of psychosocial development was well-suited to guide this research because of his emphasis on development through the life-span. Particularly, Erikson's postulates regarding identity, adolescence and mid life were helpful in driving the research methodology and explaining the findings. First, the Peterson Development Scale was used to assess pubertal status from both a father and son viewpoint. The measure was also useful in categorizing the young men studied into three pubertal groups. Second, the Parental Support Inventory was used to measure father-son involvement from the perspective of both fathers and their sons. Third, to measure the son's psychosocial status, the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status was employed, and to measure the father's psychosocial status, the Identity Status Inventory was utilized. Findings suggest that pubertal status does impact psychosocial development. In fact, there were statistically significant differences reported by fathers and sons between the three pubertal groups (pre, trans, and post) on the psychosocial status scale of foreclosure. The young men in the study scored high on the foreclosed scale in prepuberty and low in post-puberty. Typically, young men who score high on the foreclosure scale adopt the values and beliefs of their parents and rarely engage in questioning. Hence, as young men move through pubertal development, they begin to separate from the ideologies of their parents and seek out their own beliefs and opinions. Another finding suggested that as young men move through puberty, involvement with their father decreases, particularly on the dimensions of physical affection and general support. This study also demonstrated that fathers and sons do not perceive involvement or satisfaction in the same way. In fact, what fathers and sons need from each other appears to be different. Another significant finding was that fathers who score high on the information orientation scale (thoroughly consider relevant information before decisions and commitments are made) and the normative information scale (primarily concerned with the expectations of others) were less likely to have a son who scored high on the diffusion scale (low commitment, low exploration, live for the moment, impulsive). Finally, fathers who score high on the diffuse scale (procrastinating or failing to resolve conflicts) are less involved with their sons when compared to fathers who score high on the information or normative scales. In fact, fathers who score high on the information orientation and sons who score high on the foreclosed orientation are more involved with each other than any other psychosocial group.

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