A study published in the current issue of Family Process provides an in-depth look at fathering in families with young children and finds that the most involved fathers live outside traditional gendered roles.
Responsive fathers shucked the old model of fatherhood in which the man is the breadwinner and more valued than his child-rearing wife. The least interactive fathers frequently held strong traditional beliefs. These fathers often held the perception that their wives had a better deal, whether or not she worked outside of the home.
"Mothers' contributions (i.e. financial, childcare, or housework) were expected, and not viewed as worthy of notice," the authors state. On the contrary, highly responsive fathers tended not to operate from a set of assumptions that viewed women as homemakers and men as providers/protectors. Instead it was equal power between the spouses.
By conducting interviews with forty diverse married couples with children under the age of five, the authors measured father responsivity. The three levels of responsivity the study cites refer to the degree to which fathers recognize and attend to the emotional needs of their family; the household and child care tasks, and power and fairness within the couple's relationship. They conclude with suggestions for a new model of fatherhood including explicitly valuing women's work and attending to equality within the relationship.
Family Process is an international, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal committed to publishing original articles, including theory and practice, philosophical underpinnings, qualitative and quantitative clinical research, and training in couple and family therapy, family interaction, and family relationships with networks and larger systems. It is published on behalf of the Family Process Institute.
Author Dana Matta is an expert in the field of martial and family therapy. He is currently working as a full time therapist at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg and is an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University in Greensburg, PA.
Author Carmen Knudson-Martin is the director of the PhD program in marital and family therapy at Loma Linda University. Dr. Knudson-Martin is the author of numerous articles on the subject of couples and gender.
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