Fathers as Facilitators of Infant Mental Health: Implications for Early Head Start.

Publication Year: 
Personal Author: 
Fitzgerald, H. E., Montanez, M.
Type of Resource: 
Journal Article
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Preliminary data from the National Evaluation of Early Head Start (NEEHS) program suggests that minority and lower income fathers are just as emotionally invested in their infants and toddlers as White middle-class fathers, this article reports. The data refutes generalizations that lower-income minority fathers are less involved than others in the early childhood development. Most published studies on the subject have relied disproportionately upon data from White middle-class fathers, according to the report. NEEHS provides a more racially and socioeconomically diverse examination of fathers with infants and toddlers, including both biological fathers and men identified by the mother as having a similar role in their child's life. The various roles and attitudes of lower income minority fathers as they facilitiate or undermine early child development are also explored, together with such factors as resiliance and intervention. NEEHS found almost no attitude of disengagement in these fathers. Instead, most were very involved in their infant's lives despite the public misperception that many minority are often absent from the home. Two intervention stategies are suggested for Early Head Start staff to help them teach children how to restrain aggressive, impulsive and uninhibited behaviors. Behavioral monitoring of fathers and intervention where appropriate may increase their involvement in the lives of toddlers and infants, while community systems networks should be developed to encompass public health, mental health, social services, business, media, law enforcement and the judicial system. Members would meet regularly to discuss system needs and priorities for providing a safety net for the youngest children and enhancing involvement of fathers and other men in their lives. 11 references