Doctoral Candidate, Harvard University
The early childhood development literature has underscored important contributions of fathers. An increasingly robust body of evidence has demonstrated positive benefits of fathers' parenting behaviors on a variety of early child development outcomes, across various racial and ethnic groups, sociodemographic factors, and family composition structures in the U.S. and other high-income countries. However, very little empirical evidence has considered fathers in parenting or early childhood development research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). My dissertation research aims to advance our understanding of the role of fathers in their young children’s early care, health, and development in LMICs by utilizing three unique data sources, applying diverse methodologies (both rigorous quantitative and in-depth qualitative analyses), and tackling interrelated but distinct empirical research questions by which fathers influence their children’s early development.
My first chapter uses international household survey data from UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys to examine the relationship between fathers’ involvement in play and learning activities and children’s physical growth and early developmental outcomes in a sample of nearly 100,000 three- and four-year-old children across 38 LMICs.
My second chapter utilizes longitudinal data on 1,302 children and their caregivers who were involved in an early parenting intervention study in rural Pakistan. Using structural equation modeling, I examine both the maternal and paternal parenting process mechanisms that underlie the intervention’s positive effects on children’s cognitive and socioemotional development outcomes at age 4.
My third chapter is based on primary data from a qualitative study that I recently launched this year in rural Pakistan. Through in-depth interviews and direct parent-child observations in the home, this paper aims to better understand similarities and differences in the roles, expectations, manners of interactions between fathers and mothers in this community. These findings will not only provide a more holistic understanding of how fathers influence children’s development, but also undoubtedly inform promising intervention points for engaging both mothers and fathers in their young children’s lives in this community in Pakistan.
Abstract: Father-child and mother-child engagements were examined longitudinally in relation to children's language and cognitive development at 24 and 36 months. The study involved a racially/ethnically diverse sample of low-income, resident fathers (and their partners) from the National Early Head Start evaluation study (n=290). Father-child and mother-child engagements were videotaped for 10 min at home during semistructured free play, and children's language and cognitive status were assessed at both ages. Fathers' and mothers' supportive parenting independently predicted children's outcomes after covarying significant demographic factors. Moreover, fathers' education and income were uniquely associated with child measures, and fathers' education consistently predicted the quality of mother-child engagements. Findings suggest direct and indirect effects of fathering on child development.
Pub.: 30 Nov '04, Pinned: 30 Aug '17
Abstract: This systematic review aims to describe longitudinal evidence on the effects of father involvement on children's developmental outcomes.Father involvement was conceptualized as accessibility (cohabitation), engagement, responsibility or other complex measures of involvement. Both biological fathers and father figures were included. We searched all major databases from the first dates. Data on father involvement had to be generated at least 1 year before measuring offspring outcomes.N = 24 publications were included in the overview: 22 of these described positive effects of father involvement, whereof 16 studies had controlled for SES and 11 concerned the study population as a whole [five socio-economic status (SES)-controlled]. There is certain evidence that cohabitation with the mother and her male partner is associated with less externalising behavioural problems. Active and regular engagement with the child predicts a range of positive outcomes, although no specific form of engagement has been shown to yield better outcomes than another. Father engagement seems to have differential effects on desirable outcomes by reducing the frequency of behavioural problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, and enhancing cognitive development, while decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low SES families.There is evidence to support the positive influence of father engagement on offspring social, behavioural and psychological outcomes. Although the literature only provides sufficient basis for engagement (direct interaction with the child) as the specific form of 'effective' father involvement, there is enough support to urge both professionals and policy makers to improve circumstances for involved fathering.
Pub.: 07 Dec '07, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: To explore potential mediating and moderating factors that influence the association between paternal depression in the postnatal period and subsequent child behavioral and emotional problems.A population-based cohort (N = 13,822) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) was recruited during pregnancy. Paternal and maternal depressive symptoms were assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at 8 weeks after the birth of the child. Child outcomes were assessed at 3.5 years by using the Rutter revised preschool scales and at 7 years by using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Path analysis was used to assess hypothesized mediators (ie, depression in the other parent, couple conflict, and paternal noninvolvement) of the associations between both paternal and maternal depression and child outcomes. We also tested for hypothesized moderators (ie, paternal education and antisocial traits).Family factors (maternal depression and couple conflict) mediated two-thirds of the overall association between paternal depression and child outcomes at 3.5 years. Similar findings were seen when children were 7 years old. In contrast, family factors mediated less than one-quarter of the association between maternal depression and child outcomes. There was no evidence of moderating effects of either parental education or antisocial traits.The majority of the association between depression in fathers postnatally and subsequent child behavior is explained by the mediating role of family environment, whereas the association between depression in mothers and child outcomes appears to be better explained by other factors, perhaps including direct mother-infant interaction.
Pub.: 07 Jan '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: To examine the association between symptoms of psychological distress in expectant fathers and socioemotional and behavioral outcomes in their children at age 36 months.The current study is based on data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study on 31 663 children. Information about fathers' mental health was obtained by self-report (Hopkins Symptom Checklist) in week 17 or 18 of gestation. Information about mothers' pre- and postnatal mental health and children's socioemotional and behavioral development at 36 months of age was obtained from parent-report questionnaires. Linear multiple regression and logistic regression models were performed while controlling for demographics, lifestyle variables, and mothers' mental health.Three percent of the fathers had high levels of psychological distress. Using linear regression models, we found a small positive association between fathers' psychological distress and children's behavioral difficulties, B = 0.19 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.15-0.23); emotional difficulties, B = 0.22 (95% CI = 0.18-0.26); and social functioning, B = 0.12 (95% CI = 0.07-0.16). The associations did not change when adjusted for relevant confounders. Children whose fathers had high levels of psychological distress had higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems.This study suggests that some risk of future child emotional, behavioral, and social problems can be identified during pregnancy. The findings are of importance for clinicians and policy makers in their planning of health care in the perinatal period because this represents a significant opportunity for preventive intervention.
Pub.: 09 Jan '13, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Objective. Paternal depressive disorder is associated with adverse effects on child development. One possible mechanism for this is through the effects of the disorder on parenting capacities. The link between paternal depression and father-infant interactions was investigated at three-months postpartum. Design. Major depressive disorder was assessed in N = 192 fathers using a structured clinical interview (SCID). Altogether, 54 fathers met criteria for depression, and 99 fathers were categorized as non-depressed. Observational assessments of face-to-face father-infant interactions were conducted in an infant-seat setting and a floor-mat setting. Associations between paternal depression and father-infant interactions were analyzed. Results. Paternal depression is associated with more withdrawn parental behavior in interactions on the floor-mat. There were few other differences in observed interaction between depressed and non-depressed fathers. Conclusions. Fathers with depression may be more withdrawn, displaying less verbal and behavioral stimulation during interactions with their young infants. They may initiate a pattern of parenting that remains compromised, potentially affecting their children's development.
Pub.: 10 Mar '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: The last few years have seen a steady increase in research addressing the potential influence of fathers on their children’s development. There has also been a clearer acknowledgement of the need to study families as a complex system, rather than just focusing on individual aspects of functioning in one or other parent. Increased father involvement and more engaged styles of father–infant interactions are associated with more positive outcomes for children. Studies of paternal depression and other psychopathology have begun to elucidate some of the key mechanisms by which fathers can influence their children’s development. These lessons are now being incorporated into thinking about engaging both mothers and fathers in effective interventions to optimise their children’s health and development.
Pub.: 24 Feb '17, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: To address the problem of fathers' absence from children's lives and the difficulty of paternal engagement, especially among lower income families, government agencies have given increasing attention to funding father involvement interventions. Few of these interventions have yielded promising results. Father involvement research that focuses on the couple/coparenting relationship offers a pathway to support fathers' involvement while strengthening family relationships. Relevant research is reviewed and an exemplar is provided in the Supporting Father Involvement intervention and its positive effects on parental and parent-child relationships and children's outcomes. The article concludes with policy implications of this choice of target populations and the need to develop new strategies to involve fathers in the lives of their children.
Pub.: 02 Feb '17, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: The research reported here examined Chinese fathers’ direct interaction or engagement in children's education both at home and in preschool during the early childhood years using a Hong Kong sample in two studies. In Study 1, comparisons between father and mother involvement practices and examination of the associations between family background variables and father involvement as well as between father involvement and school readiness were conducted. In Study 2, father and teacher focus-group interviews were conducted to explore fathers’ and teachers’ beliefs and practices concerning father involvement. Consistent with previous studies, the findings showed that teachers and fathers acknowledged the importance of fathering for children's positive development as well as supportive marital relationships. While fathers were found to be involved in various educational activities both at home and in preschool, the findings showed that the influence of family background may depend on the context of fathers’ involvement. In particular, family income, parental education background, parental work status, and fathers’ perception of child and teacher invitations were found to affect fathers’ preschool-based involvement, but not fathers’ home-based involvement. Finally, father involvement, however, was not found to associate with children's school readiness. These findings are likely to contribute to the literature on father involvement regarding its determinants and influence on child outcomes during the early years in Chinese culture, drawing important implications for father education, teacher education and family policy.
Pub.: 03 Oct '16, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Despite the benefits for children and families of fathers who are involved positively with their children, most parenting programs in the United States and globally focus on and collect evaluation data from mothers almost exclusively. Engaging fathers is still viewed as a complex endeavor that is only somewhat successful. In this article, we summarize what is known about engaging fathers in parenting programs, then argue that programs are most effective when coparenting is the focus early in family formation. We rely on two decades of the Supporting Father Involvement program as an example of an initiative that has been effective at recruiting and retaining fathers and mothers in various cultural and national contexts. When programs are inclusive in content and focus on process, are sensitive to differences within and across families, and recognize parents as experts on their children, they are more successful in recruiting and retaining diverse groups of fathers and families.
Pub.: 13 Jun '17, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Involved and caring fatherhood contributes to the health and wellbeing of children, women and men. The corollary is also true - men, women and children are affected when fathers are not involved or supportive of their children. Many factors affect fathers' involvement, including women's attitudes, the history and nature of the relationship between mother and father, and the cultural context. This study explores gatekeeping and its impact on father involvement among Black South Africans in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Among married couples, gatekeeping occurs with respect to childcare and housework through women's attempts to validate their maternal identity according to socially and culturally constructed gender roles. Among unmarried, non-resident parents, women control father-child contact and involvement, with mothers and/or their families either facilitating or inhibiting father involvement. In this context, we found that cultural gatekeeping had a huge impact on father involvement, with the non-payment of inhlawulo or lobola regulating father-child involvement. In a country like South Africa, where there is high non-marital fertility and father-child non-residence, future research, parenting and family programmes should focus on strategies that encourage positive paternal involvement as well as maternal and cultural support for father involvement, regardless of parental relationship and residence status.
Pub.: 27 Oct '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: This paper begins with estimates of fatherhood in South Africa, in the absence of formal measures of paternity. It highlights several salient features of fatherhood in the country, particularly low rates of marriages and father absence from households, and it traces their roots in colonialism and Apartheid, the political system in South Africa under which Black people were systematically oppressed. We point out that some forms of father absence illustrate the commitment of men to supporting their families by their willingness to seek migrant work far from their homes. Examples are given of government policies to support fathers and some of the major civil society efforts are described. The paper closes with important themes about fatherhood in work with young children.
Pub.: 01 Jan '10, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is a nationally representative, internationally comparable household survey implemented to examine protective and risk factors of child development in developing countries around the world. This introduction describes the conceptual framework, nature of the MICS3, and general analytic plan of articles in this Special Section. The articles that follow describe the situations of children with successive foci on nutrition, parenting, discipline and violence, and the home environment. They address 2 common questions: How do developing and underresearched countries in the world vary with respect to these central indicators of children's development? How do key indicators of national development relate to child development in each of these substantive areas? The Special Section concludes with policy implications from the international findings.
Pub.: 27 Jan '12, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Enriching caregiving practices foster the course and outcome of child development. This study examined 2 developmentally significant domains of positive caregiving-cognitive and socioemotional-in more than 127,000 families with under-5 year children from 28 developing countries. Mothers varied widely in cognitive and socioemotional caregiving and engaged in more socioemotional than cognitive activities. More than half of mothers played with their children and took them outside, but only a third or fewer read books and told stories to their children. The GDP of countries related to caregiving after controlling for life expectancy and education. The majority of mothers report that they do not leave their under-5s alone. Policy and intervention recommendations are elaborated.
Pub.: 27 Jan '12, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: To investigate whether a responsive stimulation intervention delivered to caregivers of young children either alone or integrated with nutrition interventions would benefit parenting skills and emotional availability to promote children's development and growth compared with either a nutrition intervention alone or the usual standard of care.A cluster randomized factorial effectiveness trial was implemented in an impoverished community in Pakistan. The 4 trial arms were control (usual standard of care), responsive stimulation (responsive care and stimulation), enhanced nutrition (education and multiple micronutrients), and a combination of both enriched interventions. The 4 intervention packages were delivered by community health workers to 1489 mother-infant dyads in the first 2 years of life. Parenting skills and emotional availability indexed by mother-child interaction, caregiving environment, knowledge and practices pertaining to early childhood care and feeding, and maternal depressive symptoms were assessed at multiple intervals. An intention-to-treat factorial analysis was conducted.Intervention groups were comparable at baseline. Responsive stimulation significantly benefitted parenting skills with large effect sizes on mother-child interaction (Cohen's d 0.8), caregiving environment (Cohen's d 0.9-1.0), and knowledge and practices (Cohen's d 0.7-1.1) compared with small-modest significant effects as a result of nutrition intervention on mother-child interaction and caregiving environment only (Cohen's d 0.4 and 0.2, respectively). The combined intervention had a small significant effect on decreasing maternal depressive symptoms over time (Cohen's d 0-0.2).A responsive stimulation intervention can promote positive caregiving behaviors among impoverished families. Additional research is needed on interventions to reduce maternal depressive symptoms.
Pub.: 15 Apr '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a historic opportunity to implement interventions, at scale, to promote early childhood development. Although the evidence base for the importance of early childhood development has grown, the research is distributed across sectors, populations, and settings, with diversity noted in both scope and focus. We provide a comprehensive updated analysis of early childhood development interventions across the five sectors of health, nutrition, education, child protection, and social protection. Our review concludes that to make interventions successful, smart, and sustainable, they need to be implemented as multi-sectoral intervention packages anchored in nurturing care. The recommendations emphasise that intervention packages should be applied at developmentally appropriate times during the life course, target multiple risks, and build on existing delivery platforms for feasibility of scale-up. While interventions will continue to improve with the growth of developmental science, the evidence now strongly suggests that parents, caregivers, and families need to be supported in providing nurturing care and protection in order for young children to achieve their developmental potential.
Pub.: 09 Oct '16, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Parenting interventions have been implemented to improve the compromised developmental potential among 39% of children younger than 5 years living in low-income and middle-income countries. Maternal wellbeing is important for child development, especially in children younger than 3 years who are vulnerable and dependent on their mothers for nutrition and stimulation. We assessed an integrated, community-based parenting intervention that targeted both child development and maternal wellbeing in rural Uganda.In this community-based, cluster randomised trial, we assessed the effectiveness of a manualised, parenting intervention in Lira, Uganda. We selected and randomly assigned 12 parishes (1:1) to either parenting intervention or control (inclusion on a waitlist with a brief message on nutrition) groups using a computer-generated list of random numbers. Within each parish, we selected two to three eligible communities that had a parish office or a primary school in which a preschool could be established, more than 75 households with children younger than 6 years, and at least 15 socially disadvantaged families (ie, maternal education of primary school level or lower) with at least one child younger than 36 months. Participants within communities were mother-child dyads, where the child was 12-36 months of age at enrollment, and the mother had low maternal education. In the parenting intervention group, participants attended 12 fortnightly peer-led group sessions focusing on child care and maternal wellbeing. The primary outcomes were cognitive and receptive language development, as measured with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, 3rd edn. Secondary outcomes included self-reported maternal depressive symptoms, using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and child growth. Theoretically-relevant parenting practices, including the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment inventory, and mother-care variables, such as perceived spousal support, were also assessed as potential mediators. Baseline assessments were done in January, 2013, and endline assessments were done in November, 2013, 3 months after completion of the programme. Ethics approval was received from Mbarara and McGill universities. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01906606.Between December, 2012, and January, 2013, 13 communities (194 dyads) were randomly assigned to receive intervention, and 12 communities (154 dyads) were assigned to a waitlist control. 319 dyads completed baseline measures (171 in the intervention group and 148 in the control group), and 291 dyads completed endline measures (160 in the intervention group and 131 in the control group). At endline, children in the intervention group had significantly higher cognitive scores (58·90 vs 55·65, effect size 0·36, 95% CI 0·12-0·59) and receptive language scores (23·86 vs 22·40, 0·27, 0·03-0·50) than did children in the control group. Mothers in the intervention group reported significantly fewer depressive symptoms (15·36 vs 18·61, -0·391, 95% CI -0·62 to -0·16) than did mothers in the control group. However, no differences were found in child growth between groups.The 12 session integrated parenting intervention delivered by non-professional community members improved child development and maternal wellbeing in rural Uganda. Because this intervention was largely managed and implemented by a local organisation, using local community members and minimal resources, such a programme has the potential to be replicated and scaled up in other low-resource, village-based settings.Plan Uganda via Plan Finland (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Plan Australia (Australian Aid).
Pub.: 07 Jul '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Few studies have examined the relationship between paternal stimulation and children's growth and development, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of paternal stimulation and to assess whether paternal stimulation was associated with early child growth and development.Data from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys rounds 4 and 5 were combined across 38 LMICs. The sample comprised 87 286 children aged 3 and 4 years. Paternal stimulation was measured by the number of play and learning activities (up to 6) a father engaged in with his child over the past 3 days. Linear regression models were used to estimate standardized mean differences in height-for-age z-scores and Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI) z-scores across 3 levels of paternal stimulation, after controlling for other caregivers' stimulation and demographic covariates.A total of 47.8% of fathers did not engage in any stimulation activities, whereas 6.4% of fathers engaged in 5 or 6 stimulation activities. Children whose fathers were moderately engaged in stimulation (1-4 activities) showed ECDI scores that were 0.09 SD (95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.12 to -0.06) lower than children whose fathers were highly engaged; children whose fathers were unengaged showed ECDI scores that were 0.14 SD lower (95% CI: -0.17 to -0.12). Neither moderate paternal stimulation nor lack of paternal stimulation was associated with height-for-age z-scores, relative to high stimulation.Increasing paternal engagement in stimulation is likely to improve early child development in LMICs.
Pub.: 08 Sep '16, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: This report is the second in a Series on early child development in low-income and middle-income countries and assesses the effectiveness of early child development interventions, such as parenting support and preschool enrolment. The evidence reviewed suggests that early child development can be improved through these interventions, with effects greater for programmes of higher quality and for the most vulnerable children. Other promising interventions for the promotion of early child development include children's educational media, interventions with children at high risk, and combining the promotion of early child development with conditional cash transfer programmes. Effective investments in early child development have the potential to reduce inequalities perpetuated by poverty, poor nutrition, and restricted learning opportunities. A simulation model of the potential long-term economic effects of increasing preschool enrolment to 25% or 50% in every low-income and middle-income country showed a benefit-to-cost ratio ranging from 6·4 to 17·6, depending on preschool enrolment rate and discount rate.
Pub.: 29 Sep '11, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
Abstract: Publication date: 3rd Quarter 2016 Source:Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 36 Author(s): Jin Sun, Yuan Liu, Eva E. Chen, Nirmala Rao, Hongyun Liu Stimulating caregiving practices facilitate early child development and learning. This study examined child-, family-, and country-level predictors of maternal and paternal cognitive and socio-emotional caregiving in 28 low- and middle-income countries, using data from the UNICEF 2005 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 3. The sample included 134,290 children, aged 0–4 years, from 100,270 families. Results indicated that maternal education and the country Human Development Index (HDI), an index reflecting the social and economic development of countries, were significant predictors of parents’ caregiving practices and had large effect sizes. Maternal education further moderated the association between the HDI and parents’ caregiving practices. The findings have important implications for supporting quality parenting and for promoting the well-being of young children in low- and middle-income countries.
Pub.: 24 Dec '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17
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