Promoting Father Involvement for Child and Family Health

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Paternal involvement in children's lives is associated with a variety of child outcomes, including improved cognition, improved mental health, reduced obesity rates, and asthma exacerbation. Given this evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics has promoted actions by pediatricians to engage fathers in pediatric care. Despite these recommendations, the mother–child dyad, rather than the mother–father–child triad, remains a frequent focus of care. Furthermore, pediatric care is often leveraged to improve maternal health, such as screening for maternal depression, but paternal health is infrequently addressed even as men tend to exhibit riskier behaviors, poorer primary care utilization, and lower life expectancy. Therefore, increasing efforts by pediatric clinicians to engage fathers may affect the health of both father and child. These efforts to engage fathers are informed by currently used definitions and measures of father involvement, which are discussed here. Factors described in the literature that affect father involvement are also summarized, including culture and context; interpersonal factors; logistics; knowledge and self-efficacy; and attitudes, beliefs, and incentives. Innovative ways to reach fathers both in the clinic and in other settings are currently under investigation, including use of behavior change models, motivational interviewing, mobile technologies, peer support groups, and policy advocacy efforts. These modalities show promise in effectively engaging fathers and improving family health.

Keywords

  • father involvement
  • mother–father–child triad
  • paternal health
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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