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Teaching about fathers in a university setting.

This paper shares information and experiences from the combined perspective of a faculty member and a graduate student, each involved in different aspects of a fatherhood course in a university setting, from course development to evaluation. We share course content ideas, visit issues of concern regarding the course and offer potential, practical connections that can be made between research, theory, and practice. Detailed feedback from students who have taken the fatherhood course either as undergraduate or graduate students is also included. Our hope in sharing this information is that it will be valuable to others teaching such a course or including fatherhood material in their courses and will provide encouragement to those contemplating doing so.

Key Words: fatherhood course, university setting, course development, student feedback


Scholarship in fatherhood has increased in the past few decades (Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). General interest in fatherhood has also grown as public concern mounts over "absent" fathers and the increased associated risks for children. Movements in the 1990s like Promise Keepers and the Million Man March made the call to men explicit, encouraging positive paternal involvement in children's and families' lives. The government, too, has taken an active interest in promoting responsible fathering (Department of Health and Human Services, 2002). As instructors in a Family Studies program, we believe a more focused study of fatherhood integrates well with other coursework in our program such as Parent Education, Marriage and Family Relations, Family Resource Management, and Ethnic Minority Families. Furthermore, many students yearn to better understand the dynamics of their relationships with their own fathers as well as the father-child dynamics they experience raising their own children. Fatherhood affects everyone, either directly or indirectly. We believe there is value in offering university students the opportunity to better understand issues related to fatherhood, whether they be students who are, or will be, working professionally with fathers or families, or are interested in fatherhood for more personal reasons.

As a beginning Family Studies faculty member at a large Southwest U.S. university with a research interest in fatherhood, the first author was given the opportunity to teach a special-topic graduate course focusing on fathering. The experience was so positive for the instructor and for students taking the course that there followed an opportunity to teach an adapted version of the course to undergraduates. Enrollments for both levels of the course were above expectations for initial course offerings, and feedback from both sets of students was perceived as positive. This has prompted the Family Studies Program at our university to proceed with making fatherhood a regular course offering at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The two graduate fatherhood classes taught in the recent past averaged nine students each, and the undergraduate class had 30 students. The graduate students' professional backgrounds varied, but generally students were working in social services or educational settings and were part-time students. Undergraduate students ranged from the traditional, full-time students to those employed full-time, with a broad range of educational, employment, and family experience. Students' ethnic backgrounds included Anglo (white), Hispanic, Native American, African American, and Asian American. About 83% of the students have been female. (Females make up roughly 90% of students in the Family Studies Program.)


Both levels of this course have been taught by focusing on central questions related to fatherhood. These questions guide weekly readings, materials, assignments, and discussion. While course content and expectations vary somewhat between the undergraduate and graduate classes--for example, graduate readings are more extensive--the core questions listed below are those used to date to guide course preparation and presentation.

* Who is a father? What makes a father a father?

* Paternal involvement: what is it? What influences it?

* Paternal involvement: what difference does it make?

* How has fatherhood changed across time? How have times changed fatherhood?

* How do different cultural or ethnic contexts influence fatherhood?

* How does family composition influence fathering? How does a father's relationship with a child's mother influence his fathering?

* How do different theoretical perspectives influence our understanding of fatherhood?

* Intervening with and for fathers: What to do? Who should do it? What are the obstacles?

* Who is responsible for responsible fathering?

Generally, the first two questions listed lead the course's first two weeks. We first grapple with the questions, "Who is a father?" and "What makes a father a father?" Students discover very early the enormous challenge involved in simply defining who and what we will study during this semester-long course. Graduate students read selected sections from Dowd's (2000) book Redefining Fatherhood because of its overview of potential definitions coming from different perspectives on fatherhood, and because of the example it sets in defining fatherhood. Both graduates and undergraduates critique the following criteria taken from Levine and Pitt's (1995) definition of responsible fatherhood:

A man who behaves responsibly toward his child does the following:

1. He waits to make a baby until he is prepared emotionally and financially to support his child.

2. He establishes his legal paternity if and when he makes a baby.

3. He actively shares with the child's mother in the continuing emotional and physical care of the child, from pregnancy onward.

4. He shares with the child's mother in the continuing financial support of their child, from pregnancy onward. (pp. 5-6)

From these critiques, students generate their own definitions of fatherhood. Undergraduates especially tend to write idealized definitions. Definitions include phrases such as: "A man who is always there for his child, no matter what"; "A man who is a role model for his child"; "A man who unconditionally loves his child." Students often present lists that include words like provider, nurturer, teacher, and disciplinarian. A key consideration as we explore what is meant by the word "father" is one who is ultimately included or excluded by adopting a given definition. If a father is not a role model for his child, can he still be a father? Is breadwinning a necessary or important criterion for being a father? One student challenged the idea that a father needed to be a male, as she knew a woman who considered herself a "father" to a child. This prompted insightful discussion about what personal characteristics should be considered in defining a father and allowed for redirection, asking students to again consider whose definition should be used and for what purpose. The class decided that the assumption would be that a father was male unless it was specifically noted otherwise.

Another question that is sometimes raised is why do we need to define fatherhood at all? Students are exposed to multiple contexts where defining what constitutes fatherhood might serve a critical purpose. Such a definition might lend valuable insights when making decisions related to complex legal, biological, psychological, familial, and cultural issues. We again consider who actually defines "fathering" and the functional impact of this. The government, in many different ways, including judicial decisions, legislation, and interpretation and enforcement of the law, defines fathers. Agencies and social service providers who work with families define fathers. Researchers and academics define fathers. Perhaps most important, children, family members, and fathers themselves define who is a father and what makes us consider a man a father. The general aim of these initial classes is to introduce students to the complexities and implications involved in defining "fatherhood." Underlying this general aim, however, are a number of explicit goals. As students begin to appreciate this broad range of contexts, thoughts about issues of greater and lesser importance begin to formulate. Students grow to understand that there are many different ways to father (Palkovitz, 1997). Students examine their own perceptions of fatherhood and how these perceptions impact their personal and professional lives and the lives of others.

This serves as a transition to our next core question, "Paternal involvement: What is it?" While the goal is to look at a full range of involvement, the course emphasizes positive paternal involvement (Pleck, 1997). We begin with Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine's (1985) influential conceptualization of paternal involvement. Lamb et al. conceptualized involvement as including three components: (1) paternal interaction with the child (in the form of caretaking, play, or leisure activity); (2) availability to the child; and (3) responsibility for the care of the child, as distinct from the performance of care. After examining this work, we read and discuss material that challenges this conceptualization (Hawkins & Palkovitz, 1999; Palkovitz, 1997; see also Pleck & Stueve [2001] for further discussion).

Various forms of paternal involvement are especially difficult to conceptualize and measure including the responsibility component as defined by Lamb et al. (Pleck & Stueve, 2001). In class, in particular, we focus on the rationale for including or not including breadwinning as an aspect of paternal involvement (Christiansen & Palkovitz, 2001). Is it a central component? Is it a barrier to involvement? While it is at the core of what many men believe it is to be a good father, other men report it to be the key barrier to paternal involvement. The same father may report it being both! Students consider how to define and measure breadwinning. Is it related to and measured by the financial or economic resources provided or by time spent in providing these resources? The proportion of earnings that reaches the child? What level of resources is enough? Is it defined as a role to be measured by salience or commitment to the role, regardless of the actual level of resources provided? Many students are likely to be influenced by their perceptions of their own fathers, whether they have valued their fathers' efforts in providing for them, or have felt distanced by their fathers' work. Tackling these more specific aspects of involvement such as breadwinning encourages depth in thinking and continues to reinforce the complexity of fatherhood.

One theme that recurs throughout the weekly course topics is the influence of mothers on fathers and vice versa. For example, several studies have indicated the influence of mothers' attitudes and perceptions about fathering are at least as strongly related to paternal involvement as the fathers' own attitudes and perceptions (Beitel & Parke, 1998; McBride & Rane, 1997; Pleck & Stueve, in press). One activity that highlights the importance of the mother-father relationship on fathering is watching the 20/20 report Not My Job (Zimmerman, 1994). A related topic currently debated is the level and effect of maternal gatekeeping on paternal involvement (for example, see Doherty, Kouneski, & Erickson, 2000; Walker & McGraw, 2000). The emphasis in the class is on how the partner dynamics influence fathers' parenting (see Stueve & Pleck [2003] in this issue for an example of a context in which many fathers may defer to mothers as opposed to being kept from involvement).

Again, all weeks are guided and organized by central focus questions previously listed. Course readings, lecture notes, and handouts are chosen that are pertinent to the focus question or questions. In addition to instructor-selected materials, an unexpectedly rich source of valuable materials, especially as each semester progressed, was the students. Students were encouraged to bring relevant materials, and these included academic as well as mainstream articles, cartoons, and observations they had made that related to fatherhood. These materials were varied and often generated lively discussion.


A variety of instructional activities are used to augment the specific focus questions that guide each week. Using a variety of teaching methods helps students with different learning styles have the chance to use their preferred styles at least some of the time. Written, visual, and auditory materials are incorporated into course plans. Different activities are emphasized at the undergraduate and graduate levels and take into account the different academic and professional experiences. For example, both because of academic level and smaller class size, the graduate course is much more oriented around a seminar format. Graduate students are asked to email the instructor questions or comments on readings before the class meets each week. Undergraduates are only required to do this once. These questions and comments help direct a good part of the class discussion. Assignments and activities have included:

* Readings (the core activity, but more so for graduate level students. See abbreviated reading list in Appendix A.)

* Artifact-sharing activity

* Guest speakers and a father panel

* Reflection/reaction papers

* Small-group and full-class discussions

* A theoretical perspectives activity

* A "movie night" with follow-up activity

* Clips from news reports, popular shows, and educational videos

* Final student projects and presentations


One goal of our Family Studies Program is to connect research, theory, and practice. The study of fatherhood provides the opportunity to highlight each "leg" of the research, theory, and practice triangle and allows us to focus on ways the legs support each other. Research is highlighted as critical to providing answers related to the numbers, characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes of fathers in different contexts and to understanding the influences these factors and contexts may have on children, families, and fathers themselves. While theoretical perspectives for understanding fatherhood axe featured as the specific focus for one week's meeting, theory-related issues are raised throughout the course. For example, we consider the underlying explicit and implicit assumptions of the research reading assigned for a particular class focus question. Over the course of the semester, the underpinnings of anthropological and evolutionary perspectives are discussed along with symbolic interactionism, role theory, social constructionism, and family systems theories.

Learning related to the practice leg in the research, theory, and practice triangle benefits greatly from the students' experience, especially at the graduate level. The word "practice" as used here refers to both the practice of fathering and the practices of those who work with fathers. As noted, most graduate students in the course are already working in a social service or educational setting, so students often spoke about how the material covered in class corresponded with their work experience. Guest speakers who work with fathers or are actually fathering children also help connect the students' experience to real-life fathering issues. One guest speaker has been the father whose child-custody case prompted changes in state law that has led to a significant increase in the number of fathers gaining joint or sole custody of their children after divorce. He was the subject of national media attention in the late 1980s and the subject of a network movie. As much as possible, an effort is made to make practical (as in "to put into practice") connections between the research material and theoretical perspectives presented and discussed in class.

The classroom activity that most explicitly helps make this connection is the graduate course final project. One option for the final project includes conducting an interview with a father using the Parenting Narrative Interview (Stueve & Pleck, 2001; see Appendix B for examples of PNI questions). To date, 13 of 18 graduate students have chosen to complete the PNI as their final project. These students go through the formal Human Subjects Institutional Review Board process with the instructor. Each student then conducts an interview with a father and gathers data on background information, levels and types of involvement, and paternal identity using standard surveys. The student transcribes the interview and shares the transcript, a summary of the survey information, and their experience with classmates. Each student completes her or his project by doing an analysis of her or his interview focusing on the content that presents the most personal or professional interest. Students use course readings as part of their literature review and background material for their interview analysis. This final project option requires students to study the experience of one father and connect it to research and theory covered in the course. (Dollahite, Hawkins, & Brotherson [1996] consider in more depth the benefit of using a narrative approach in understanding fathering and more extensively discuss the link between theory, education, and narrative.)

The variety of fathering contexts that students have explored has been a real strength of the course. Married, unmarried, and divorced fathers have been interviewed. One father who had biological children separated by four months with two different mothers, both living in the same town, was interviewed. African, African American, Hispanic, Native American, and White fathers have all been included in student interview choices. There has also been considerable range in the ages of fathers interviewed. Because of the open-ended nature of the PNI and the range of questions asked, students can focus on different themes Of interest. For example, students have focused on models of fathering (Daly, 1995), the influence of mothers on paternal identity (McBride & Rane, 1997; Stueve & Pleck, 2001), and the role of culture on fathering (Hewlett, 2000).

The first author has also incorporated his own research and its underlying theoretical perspective into the course. This research features interview data from fathers and mothers across a range of parenting domains and across time with a particular emphasis on narratives of key parenting experiences. Key experiences include the anticipation of becoming a parent, experiences across children's development, and hopes and concerns for the future as a parent. These interviews have supplied useful narratives for research while serving as material for class discussion of various concepts and issues. (See Stueve & Pleck [2003] in this issue for a specific example of a topic and narratives that have been shared with classes.) Students participate in activities that have them code narratives based on previous codes used in research projects. Follow-up activities have included checking inter-rater reliability, and some students have used the codes in the graduate course final project.


The fatherhood course work described here is not intended to include counseling or therapeutic strategies, and self-disclosure is not required. However, because of the nature of fatherhood itself, students enter class with personal experiences that are highly relevant to course content. It is also inevitable that students will enter the class with fathering experiences that are both positive and negative and with experiences that might evoke intense emotion during class discussion. While it is important to recognize that these experiences help provide the lens through which students, particularly undergraduates, will see fatherhood, a key concern was that of sustaining academic focus. To help assure discussion remains pertinent, students are continually encouraged to draw parallels and make distinctions between personal experience, professional experience, and fatherhood research and theory. Vigilance is exercised to assure that the focus of study remains in making these connections and reciting their relevance.

One of the most valuable activities, particularly as reported by undergraduate students, is the sharing of fatherhood "artifacts" by class members. The assignment is to bring an artifact that holds some symbolic representation of fatherhood. Though not required, many of the students bring artifacts from their own families and share histories and stories that are quite moving. Students bring pictures, postcards, childhood objects, and projects completed with fathers that hold great meaning. One student brought a teddy bear given to her by her father, a father she finally met when she turned 21 years old. He gave her this teddy bear along with $100. With obvious disappointment, she related that this was the first and the last time she ever saw her father. Such powerful narratives can produce very useful, teachable moments in the classroom. Other students have brought treasured childhood pictures taken with their fathers or with father figures. Students brought objects that were left to them by deceased fathers. Classes have rated this artifact activity as a very valuable learning experience in highlighting the impact, both positive and negative, that fathers can have on their children's lives.

One reason for the success of artifact sharing and its positive student reception might be the timing in presenting such an activity. It is used as one of the culminating activities in the semester. This is because most classes slowly build rapport over the semester by experiencing small group discussions and developing personal relationships that build a "safe" environment for sharing. More importantly, the rationale for how such personal sharing might fit into our academic understanding of fatherhood is discussed and, once again, vigilance is exercised to maintain the academic focus of the exercise. It is also made clear that each student has a choice about whether to be an active participant in this experience. In addition, I (first author) generally expect to spend extra time after class has ended, giving students who wish to share more personal insights a private chance to do so. Should it become clear to me that a student is struggling emotionally with some aspect of what we have discussed, referral source information is readily available. Another helpful tool is an initial information sheet that students complete at the first class meeting. This is a request for the usual contact information, but included is a section for students to briefly share what prompted them to enroll in a class on fatherhood. This often gives early insight into students who may bring sensitive issues to future class material and discussions.

Beyond concern for how student experiences with their own fathers might impact their class experience, I was also somewhat anxious about how single mothers might respond to such a course, with its emphasis on positive paternal involvement. However, concerns in this area have not materialized. In fact, single mothers' contributions have been a strength of the course. Without exception, they have provided an extremely valuable perspective. For example, these students bring firsthand knowledge about child support issues, single motherhood stresses, and custody laws, as well as their perceptions of the importance of fathers in their children's lives. I found these students often challenge me as well as other students to continually consider all perspectives, and I now greatly look forward to the contributions single mothers make to the fatherhood classroom.


Student feedback has been sought through several avenues. One initial and critical criterion for new courses at our university is enrollment numbers. As mentioned earlier, a rationale for continuing to offer courses addressing fatherhood issues is that both our undergraduate and graduate courses have exceeded enrollment expectations. To continue building on this initial student interest and to improve the course, we have sought detailed student feedback in several forms. Some of these methods include early, informal feedback solicited at the midterm in each course; standard university Instructor and Course Evaluation System (ICES) reports that have both Likert-scale and open-ended items; and a focus-group interview with graduate students at the end of their course. In addition, both undergraduate and graduate stu dents have the option of writing a final reflection paper that evaluates the course. All methods listed, with the exception of the optional reflection paper, are anonymous.

Several general themes have emerged from the open-ended, written feedback. Many Family Studies students state that looking at family issues from the vantage of fatherhood has provided valuable perspective and has added depth to the Family Studies curriculum. Course ratings from the ICES reports for the fatherhood courses were also positive. These evaluations include class ratings on course content and the course in general. Class means for the three semesters taught so far have ranged from 5.5 to 6.0 on a scale of 1 to 6 (1 = very poor, 6 = excellent). Means for these categories across Family Studies courses in our program in the calendar year 2001 were 5.3 for undergraduate courses and 5.1 for graduate courses.

A few differences emerged in feedback gathered from the undergraduates as compared with that collected from graduate students. Undergraduates were more likely to see fatherhood issues from a personal perspective. While graduate students also reported this, they were much more likely to make professional connections with the material. Undergraduates also had more difficulty digesting the class materials that address the theoretical perspectives for understanding fatherhood. Some undergraduate students also judged that too much emphasis was placed on research. One phrase used by different undergraduates in their critique of the course was that it was too "researchy." It was not clear if this referred to the level or amount of research material or to both. The undergraduates' point that more foundation needs to be in place before theoretical perspectives are explored seems well founded. The undergraduate course is being modified to address this (see Discussion and Future Directions section). More detailed evaluation findings and suggestions from the graduate student focus group follow.


Five graduate students who had just completed the course were asked to participate in an expanded evaluation. The intent of this was to gather finer detail around their experiences in the fatherhood course. Students were asked open-ended questions that encouraged them to speak about specific aspects of their learning experience and to offer ideas about how to keep the information pertinent and interesting for future students.


The second author, a graduate student in the fatherhood course, conducted a focus group interview with these graduate students. The group interview was taped and later transcribed for review. To maintain confidentiality of members of this small class, at no point did the instructor have access to the transcribed interview. Students reported that they had no concern if it was shared. However, this protocol was maintained.

The graduate students were asked 10 questions after their final class meeting. The questions included expectations upon registration, personal/professional impact of the course, and specific suggestions for future classes. In a final discussion, the class was also asked to think about difficult personal issues a class about fathers might raise for students and how the instructor might address this possibility. Specific student comments and suggestions regarding this issue are included in a later section and are valuable for consideration by anyone teaching a course whose content might evoke powerful memories and insights.


Students agreed the syllabus used for this course had been built with thought to organization, progressive readings, and varied learning styles. Assignments, due dates, work quality guidelines, participation expectations, and weighting of the various activities for grading were made clear from the initial class and repeated often.


The two activities reported as being the most effective in helping these graduate students learn were the use of reaction papers and class discussion. Students reported the reaction papers helped to focus their own views on assigned readings and appreciated being given the opportunity to choose which of the readings they responded to. Two students said they learned best by listening to others reflect on the subject matter and, because of this, they appreciated the opportunity for regular class discussion of the material. One student found her interview with a father using the Parenting Narrative Interview (Stueve & Pleck, 2001) the high point of the class. Appreciation for outside speakers, videos, cartoons, and artifact sharing was expressed as a means to making the material pertinent and increasing awareness of fatherhood issues outside of class.


Three of the students reported no specific expectations upon entering the course beyond learning about fathering in the context of parenting. The remaining two students reported they expected more historical and stereotypical approaches to studying fatherhood. Every student reported what they took with them from class each week in terms of readings, discussions, class experiences, and food for thought far exceeded their expectations. Every student reported the course had a profound impact on how they thought about fatherhood personally as well as within their chosen professions. Revelations ranged from astonishment at the amount of scholarly literature and the number of supportive organizations already in existence to a shift in one student's total working paradigm. This student reported she approached her work with families in the domestic court system very differently following this course. The course readings and discussion had prompted her to examine more closely details related to what constituted positive paternal involvement within families and to include broader elements of what constituted fatherhood when testifying on issues of visitation and custody. The impact of studying about fatherhood on this particular student clearly extended beyond the classroom. (An undergraduate student who will be entering law school shared a similar story of the impact of the class on her work in family mediation.)


Focus group members were unanimous in their opinion that a course discussing fatherhood behaviors presented no greater or lesser opportunity for personal disclosure and/or discomfort than other sensitive topics found in Family Studies course work such as child abuse, substance abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and battered women. They felt the standing practice of alerting both graduate and undergraduate students at the initial class to the fact some course content might be sensitive should be maintained.

It was speculated that greater difficulty with sensitive subject matter might be expected from students in the undergraduate course. Allowing students to be active listeners versus participants during such times and offering the opportunity for students to leave the setting if necessary were thought to be appropriate precautionary measures. In addition, they believed instructor availability following class for students to share more privately could help alleviate any student difficulties.


One significant finding was that students often felt class time was too short. All reported wishing for more time to discuss issues of interest brought forward by the readings and reaction papers. As a group, they felt time was a barrier to learning by limiting extended discussion. Due to the breadth of the subject matter, the amount of literature for review and the value of in-depth discussion, a suggestion was made to offer the course as Fatherhood I and follow it with a Fatherhood II course offering. (At this time faculty instructional resources are too limited for a second graduate fatherhood course.)

Suggestions for additional topics students wished to be included were numerous: more about how to use the powerful influence of fatherhood to teach their sons to be good fathers; more about the special role of extended fathers such as grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers, adoptive fathers and how these roles differ from primary fathering; more about gay and stepfathering experiences; more in-depth study of cultural diversity issues. Expansion of topics only touched upon in the course was suggested in the following areas: marital relationships and fathering; mothers' influence on fathering; how fathers move through various parenting phases and fathering in foreign cultures. Students felt expanding the course to two offerings would allow the opportunity for study of these areas of interest. A suggestion was also made to offer specialty classes; for example, it was felt learning about fathering in other cultures could be a semester course in itself.


In this final section, modifications made for an undergraduate fatherhood class that was starting at the time of the writing of this paper are first discussed. Next, future directions for those interested in the teaching of fatherhood are considered. Finally, we conclude with encouragement for others considering teaching about fatherhood in the university setting.

One limitation of this paper is that a study similar to that reported with graduate students has not been conducted at the undergraduate level. Nevertheless, both student feedback and the instructor's own reflection on teaching the course have led to modifications in an undergraduate fatherhood course that has just started. Changes have included adding the Hawkins and Dollahite (1997) Generative Fathering book as a required text. Many of the chapters tie in well with weekly core questions, and the generative perspective is widely recognized in fathering. This gives the undergraduate students one example of a theoretical framework with which to view fathering. Other frameworks described earlier are still included in the course. Slightly less emphasis is placed on research findings, and slightly more is placed on application. Work from groups like the National Head Start Association (2002), National Center for Fathering (2002), and National Center on Fathers and Families (2002) has been included. Another addition to the class is a weekly posting of a summary of class notes on the instructor's website. Periodic quizzes are being included to further reinforce the importance of keeping current on class readings and material. One modification to the next graduate class offered is adding a section on family law related to fatherhood issues.

It is also clear there is now too much important research and academic material related to fatherhood to be included in any one course. Our challenge for the future may be in how we address this abundance in ways that direct our efforts to develop interesting, relevant, and meaningful courses for our students. There is scant information on what to teach and how to teach about fathers. The Generative Fathering book is one example. Information regarding the number of fatherhood courses currently being taught, the various colleges and departments sponsoring such course work, and discernible patterns in course content could be helpful in future course and curriculum development. We are not aware of an inclusive cataloguing of college or university fatherhood courses nationally or internationally. Dedication to accumulating this information may represent the most logical next step in developing criteria that could be used in making pertinent core content decisions and, ultimately, core course work requirements within Family Studies and related disciplines.

We realize the ideas and experiences presented here do not represent the only way to teach about fatherhood in a university setting. We believe the ideas are worth considering, however. Our main hope is that this paper serves as encouragement to instructors and program chairpersons contemplating offering a fatherhood course or expanding the use of fatherhood materials in other family course offerings. Offering more of such course work could add depth to our family curricula while making a positive contribution to ongoing efforts to promote positive paternal involvement. It would also meet both a personal interest of students and a need for better understanding of issues related to fatherhood at the societal level.



The following is an abbreviated reading list. While other readings may and should be considered, the following have been useful. Some readings are assigned in whole, in some cases selected sections and chapters are selected, and sometimes a set of options is given. Materials listed in the reference section may also be considered as core readings.

Amato, P., & Gilbreth, J. (1999). Nonresident fathers and children's well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 557-573.

Amato, P.R., Rivera, F. (1999). Paternal involvement and children's behavior problems. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375-384.

Doherty, W., Kouneski, E., & Erickson, M. (1998). Responsible fathering: An overview and conceptual framework. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 277-292.

Fagan, J., & Iglesias, A. (1999). Father involvement program effects on fathers, father figures, and their Head Start children: A quasi-experimental study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 14, 243-269.

Gerson, K. (1997). The social construction of fatherhood. In T. Arendell (Ed.), Contemporary parenting: Challenges and issues (pp. 119-153). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Griswold, R. (1993). Fatherhood in America: A history. New York: Basic Books.

Hawkins, A. J., Christiansen, S. L., Sargent, K. P., & Hill, E. J. (1993). Rethinking fathers involvement in childcare: A developmental perspective. Journal of Family Issues, 14, 531-549.

Ihinger-Tallman, M., Pasley, K., & Buehler, C. (1993). Developing a middle-range theory of father involvement postdivorce. Journal of Family Issues, 14, 550-571.

Kiselica, M.S. (1995). A profile of the teenage father. Multicultural counseling with teenage fathers (pp. 15-36). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lamb, M.E. (Ed.). (1997). The role of the father in child development (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley and Sons.

LaRossa, R. (1988). Fatherhood and social change. Family Relations, 37, 451-457.

Marsiglio, W. (Ed.). (1995). Fatherhood: Contemporary theory, research and social policy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

McBride, B.A. (1990). The effects of a parent education/play group program on father involvement in child rearing. Family Relations, 39, 250-256.

Parke, R. (2002.) Fathers and families. In M. Borenstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (2nd ed., pp. 27-73). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Patterson, C.J., & Chan, R.W. (1997). Gay fathers. In M. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 245-260). New York: Wiley and Sons.

Peters, H.E., Peterson, G.W., Steinmetz, S.K., & Day, R.D. (Eds.). (2000). Fatherhood: Research, interventions, and policies. New York: Haworth.

Popenoe, D. (2001). A world without fathers. In H.L. Tischler (Ed.), Debating points--Contemporary social issues (pp. 19-324). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Roy, K. (1999). Low-income single fathers in an African American community and the requirements of welfare reform. Journal of Family Issues, 20, 432-457.

Silverstein, L.B., & Auerbach, C.F. (2001). Deconstructing the essential father. In H.L. Tischler (Ed.), Debating points--Contemporary social issues (pp. 25-32). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Toth, J.F., & Xu, X. (1999). Ethnic and cultural diversity in fathers' involvement: A racial/ethnic comparison of African American, Hispanic, and White fathers. Youth and Society, 31, 76-99.



* To begin, I'd like you to remember when you first started thinking about being a parent. What kinds of things did you think about?

* What did you think being a parent would be like?

* Can you tell me about a particular experience related to deciding to have or coming to be the parent of your child?

* Thinking back to when your child was a younger child, is there an experience as a parent, either positive or negative, that you recall as being meaningful to you?

* Is there a more recent experience that comes to mind, either positive or negative?

* Can you tell me about a meaningful experience you have had or expect to have related to taking care of your child's physical needs?

* Can you tell me about a meaningful experience you have had or expect to have related to promoting your child's development?

* When it comes to your child, what do you think is the most important influence on the way your child develops?

* Can you tell me about a meaningful experience you have had or expect to have related to breadwinning for your child?

* As a parent, what decisions went into working, or whether to work, or where to work? How do you think that decision has affected your child?

* Can you tell me about a meaningful experience related to arranging and planning things for your child?

* Can you tell me about a meaningful experience you have had or expect to have with your child that relates to how you get along with each other, things you enjoy or find frustrating about each other, and how you feel about each other?

* How do you think your child sees you as a parent? What influences the relationship between you and your child?

* How would you describe a good relationship between a parent and a child?

* Are there any role models who have influenced you as a parent? How have they influenced you?

* Can you describe what your relationship was like with your father when you were your child's age?

* What beliefs do you have as a parent that influence you?

* Do you see your role as a parent as being similar or different than other fathers with your cultural background?

* If you are a member of a faith-based or religious group, has that influenced your parenting?

* What do you feel children need most from their parents? How does a parent know what a child needs?

* How do people learn to be parents? Why do you think that is the way they learn?

* How does someone know if he or she is a good parent?

* As your child's parent, is there any key event or experience that you anticipate in the future?

* Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about being a parent to your child?

The authors would like to acknowledge the following for their contribution to this project: Kevin Roy and Tom Rane for their encouragement and willingness to share materials and especially to the students in the FS 493 and FS 593 Fatherhood classes at the University of New Mexico. Judy Grassbaugh, a student in the first FS 593 class, reviewed the manuscript for accuracy. We wish to thank three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful feedback.


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Correspondence concerning this paper should be sent to Jeffrey L. Stueve at Simpson Hall, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-1246. Electronic mail:



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