Bridging Research and Policy: Including Fathers of Young Children in National Studies.

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Cabrera, N.
Brooks-Gunn, J.
Moore, K.
West, J.
et al.
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The Fatherhood Research Initiative identified a need for information about fathers who were low-income, not living with their children, or never married. Existing policies address child support and marriage, but do not recognize the other types of paternal support that are important for well-being. Three large national studies of fathers of young children have developed a consortium to share strategies for research design, measures, and concepts involved in the examination of the role of fathers. All three of the studies are surveying fathers directly and including men who are low-income, divorced, or never married. They are considering multiple levels of father involvement from the child's birth through early childhood. The Fragile Families Study of Child Well-being is focusing on the skills of unwed parents, their relationship, the impact of public policies on the relationship between unwed parents, and the effects of welfare reform and child support regulations on parents and children. The Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project includes four fatherhood studies: the Father Involvement with Toddlers Study, the Father and Newborn Study, and the Fatherhood Program Participation and Service Use Study. Samples include unrelated father figures as well as biological fathers. These studies are investigating father characteristics, father parenting behavior, and father beliefs about fathering. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort plans to follow 16,000 infants born in 2001 and 2002 until their entry into first grade. The nationally representative sample will include oversamples of Asian and American Indian children, low birth weight infants and twins. Data will be collected about child development and fathers' attitudes about their relationship with their children. All three of the studies must overcome methodological challenges regarding the identification of fathers, definition of fathers, enrollment of fathers, retention and response rates, and definitions of father involvement. This chapter compares the designs of the studies and reviews lessons learned about methodology and measurement. 32 references and 7 tables.

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