Father involvement programs

Programs that support father involvement provide educational trainings and services related to parenting skills, father-child relationships, and child development and well-being. Fathers can be involved with their children through direct interactions, support for a child’s mother, management of a child’s behavior, and role modeling positive behavior (). Father involvement programs are often delivered in a group setting through local organizations and often focus on first time, low income, minority, and nonresident fathers.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Improved family functioning

  • Improved parent-child interaction

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased academic achievement

  • Improved child behavior

  • Improved parenting

  • Improved cognitive skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that programs that support father involvement strengthen families and improve father-child interactions (). Overall, father involvement is positively associated with child outcomes such as academic achievement, positive behaviors, and socio-emotional wellbeing (, , ). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of programs that work to support these relationships.

Interventions that involve both mothers and fathers demonstrate improvements in child behavior (), father engagement (), and parent perceptions. Such interventions may have better outcomes than interventions that engage only mothers or only fathers ().

Programs that focus on active father-child involvement have been shown to enhance fathers’ interactions with their children and increase fathers’ positive perceptions of their children. These interventions may also increase children’s cognitive development () and reduce problem behaviors (). The Fathers and Sons program, serving nonresident black fathers, has been shown to increase participating fathers’ satisfaction with their parenting skills and sons’ intentions to avoid violence ().

Coparenting initiatives and programs targeting parents’ relationship with each other may enhance benefits for children (, ). Researchers suggest considering cultural values and context of parenting in curriculum design and implementation decisions ().

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

There are many efforts underway to further father involvement. Examples include WATCH D.O.G.S., a program that invites a father to a child’s school (NCF); Bringing Baby Home, a new parents workshop supporting co-parenting and marital relationships (BBH); and Fatherhood Is Sacred, a 12-week fatherhood knowledge and skill building program for Native American fathers (NAFFA). Young Fathers of Central Florida implements two programs for teen fathers, Teen Fatherhood Academy and Dad to Dad Mentoring (YFCF). The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) implements a number of programs and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) provides funding for programs that promote responsible fatherhood. 

Implementation Resources

NRFC - National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC).

DC-Fatherhood toolkit - Dad Central. Fatherhood involvement toolkit.

US DHHS-Fatherhood - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

AHA - American Humane Association. QIC fatherhood toolkit.

NCF - National Center for Fathering (NCF). Establish a positive fathering.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Knox 2011* - Knox V, Cowan PA, Cowan CP, Bildner E. Policies that strengthen fatherhood and family relationships: What do we know and what do we need to know? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 2011;635(1):216-39.

Lundahl 2007* - Lundahl BW, Tollefson D, Risser H, Lovejoy MC. A meta-analysis of father involvement in parent training. Research on Social Work Practice. 2007;18(2):97-106.

Magill-Evans 2006* - Magill-Evans J, Harrison MJ, Rempel G, Slater L. Interventions with fathers of young children: Systematic literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2006;55(2):248-64.

Cowan 2009* - Cowan PA, Cowan CP, Pruett MK, Pruett K, Wong JJ. Promoting fathers’ engagement with children: Preventive interventions for low-income families. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2009;71(3):663-79.

McHale 2012* - McHale J, Waller MR, Pearson J. Coparenting interventions for fragile families: What do we know and where do we need to go next? Family Process. 2012;51(3):284–306.

McWayne 2013* - McWayne C, Downer JT, Campos R, Harris RD. Father involvement during early childhood and its association with children's early learning: A meta-analysis. Early Education and Development. 2013;24(6):898-922.

Jeynes 2015* - Jeynes WH. A meta-analysis: The relationship between father involvement and student academic achievement. Urban Education. 2015;50(4):387-423.

Adamsons 2013* - Adamsons K, Johnson SK. An updated and expanded meta-analysis of nonresident fathering and child well-being. Journal of Family Psychology. 2013;27(4):589-599.

Caldwell 2014* - Caldwell CH, Antonakos CL, Assari S, et al. Pathways to prevention: Improving nonresident African American fathers' parenting skills and behaviors to reduce sons' aggression. Child Development. 2014;85(1):308-325.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

NRFC - National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC).

NFI - National Fatherhood Initiative.

BBH - The Gottman Institute. Bringing Baby Home (BBH): New Parents Workshop.

YFCF - Young Fathers of Central Florida (YFCF). Fatherhood is a blessing that matters.

NAFFA - Native American Fatherhood & Families Association (NAFFA). Fatherhood Is Sacred & Motherhood Is Sacred.

NCF - National Center for Fathering (NCF). Establish a positive fathering.

Date Last Updated

Feb 10, 2016