Jan 16, 2013


An intervention was implemented with the goal
of improving father-child interactions and increase father involvement for
first-time fathers. One hundred sixty-five participants were randomly assigned
to a treatment or control group, with the treatment group participating in eight
educational sessions pre- and postpartum. Through the use of parent self-report
questionnaires, coded observations of parent-child play, and time diaries,
outcomes were assessed. There were some positive effects in terms of fathers’
interaction skills with their child, and father accessibility (to the child) on
the day when the father worked outside of the home.


Target population:
First-time fathers

An educational
intervention for the transition to fatherhood was created. The program sought
out to enhance the quality of interaction between father and child, and increase
father involvement among first-time fathers. Specifically, the researchers were
looking to enhance fathers’ knowledge, skills, and commitment to the fatherhood
role, to increase the support that fathers received from mothers, as well as
increase their expectations for the fathers’ involvement, to encourage teamwork
in the couple, and to find better ways for the couple to deal with contextual
factors such as work.

received eight educational sessions (the first one being a home visitation, and
subsequent sessions taking place at clinics). These sessions occurred monthly
and began during the second trimester of the pregnancy, and continued until
about five months after the birth. Participants were divided into 17 groups that
were led by 4 teams of parent educators (averaging 15 years of experience).

The curriculum
consisted of mini lectures, group discussions, group discussion, videotapes,
skill demonstration, role playing, and use of new parent role models.


Doherty, W.J.,
Erickson, M.F., and LaRossa, R. (2006). An Intervention to Increase Father
Involvement and Skills With Infants During the Transition to Parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(3), 438-447.

Evaluated population:
165 couples were initially recruited to
participate in the study. Couples were recruited from obstetrical clinics on the
basis of four criteria: both parents had to be over the age of 18, married or
cohabiting, in the second trimester, and expecting their first child.

Participants were
oversampled at a rate of 5/4 for the intervention group vs. the control group,
because the researchers expected more people to drop out of the intervention
group due to the greater time and energy commitments expected of this group.
Therefore, 95 couples were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 70 to
the control group. By the 12 month assessment, this had dropped to 74 couples in
the intervention group and 67 in the control group. After discovering several
problems with 9 of the couples, and concluding that these had not received an
adequate intervention, the researchers dropped them from the data before doing
the outcome analysis – bringing the number to 65 couples in the intervention
group and 67 in the control. But in order to keep with an intent-to-treat
intervention design, the researchers also conducted analyses that included these
9 couples. Only intent-to-treat results are presented.

Participants were
mostly from a middle-class background; two-thirds had college degrees and over
half earned more than $75,000 as a couple. Sixteen percent of the couples were
of a mixed race ethnicity, and 3% were of a same non-white ethnicity. The median
age for mothers was 30, and for fathers it was 31. One hundred fifty-six of the
couples were married and 9 were cohabiting.

Approach: At
the end of each educational session, checklists were completed by educators in
order to assess fidelity to the curriculum. There was also an observer taking
notes during the sessions. Parents, educators, and observers were asked to
complete self-report evaluations of the program.

The study focused
on the quality of father-child interaction and father involvement, which were
assessed using self-report questionnaires, a detailed time record, and
observations of parent-child interactions. Videotaped home observations of
parent-child play were rated using the Parent Behavior Rating Scale ( a 7-point
scale which codes for warmth/intrusiveness, engagement with child, positive
affect, negative affect, and dyadic synchrony), in order to assess father-child
interaction quality. Father involvement was assessed using the
Interaction/Accessibility Time Chart (in which parents are asked to complete
time diaries containing detailed, hour-by-hour information of their engagement
and accessibility with the child), and the Parental Responsibility Scale (a
self-report questionnaire complete jointly by parents and which seeks to
determine which parent has the responsibility for 14 common child tasks, based
on a 5-point scale).

Intent-to-treat analyses indicate significant impacts for warmth/emotional
support and dyadic synchrony, but nothing else. The effect sizes for overall
interaction quality were .36 at 6 months after birth, and .16 at 12 months. In
terms of father involvement, the effect size at 6 months is .42, but drops
slightly to .26 at 12 months. Also, parallel interaction on work days (which is
the amount of time the father spends doing another activity while with the
child) has an effect size of .56 at 6 months after birth and .23 at 12 months.
No statistically significant impacts were found for intrusiveness, engagement
with child, positive affect, negative affect, and overall quality.



Doherty, W.J.,
Erickson, M.F., and LaRossa, R. (2006). An Intervention to Increase Father
Involvement and Skills With Infants During the Transition to Parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(3), 438-447.

KEYWORDS: Infants, Home Visitation, Parent or Family Component, Parent-Child Relationship

information last updated 9/12/08.