Research about the impact of fathering on child development has prompted questions about the definition of more and less father involvement and the different ways that children are affected by varying levels of involvement. Although there are no definite answers to these questions, this chapter explores issues that should be considered when studying father involvement and its influences on child development. Topics include the identity of fathers (biological or social), the diversity of fathering contexts, conceptualizations of father involvement used by research, and the meanings of more or less father involvement. Studies have used a variety of definitions of father involvement, from the amount of time spent with the child to the provision of financial support and the acceptance of the father role. More involvement has been associated with improvements in children's social skills, cognitive abilities, and life satisfaction. However, the author of the chapter asserts that studies that focus on the amount of time that fathers spend with children assume that the time is spent in productive activities. More father involvement is not beneficial to children when the father is modeling negative behaviors or acting overly protective. He suggests that father involvement should be defined in terms of the quality of the interaction between father and child and not the amount of time. The chapter cites recent studies in which researchers attempted to define the characteristics of good, or generative, fathers. Although the definition of a good father will be based on values such as sensitivity, mutual benefits, and commitment, the construct is more instructive than measures of quantity of time in explaining how father involvement influences child development. 64 references and 1 table.
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