Father involvement programs

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

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 behavior1. 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.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Improved family functioning

  • Improved parent-child interaction

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased academic achievement

  • Improved child behavior

  • Improved parenting

  • Improved cognitive skills

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is some evidence that programs that support father involvement strengthen families and improve father-child interactions234. Overall, father involvement is positively associated with child outcomes such as academic achievement, positive behaviors, and socio-emotional well-being1, 5, 6. 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 behavior24, father engagement74, and parent perceptions. Such interventions may have better outcomes than interventions that engage only mothers or only fathers2.

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 development3 and reduce problem behaviors2. 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 violence8.

Coparenting initiatives and programs targeting parents’ relationship with each other may enhance benefits for children7, 9. Researchers suggest considering cultural values and context of parenting in curriculum design and implementation decisions3.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated 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 school10; Bringing Baby Home, a new parents workshop supporting co-parenting and marital relationships11; and Fatherhood Is Sacred, a 12-week fatherhood knowledge and skill building program for Native American fathers12. Young Fathers of Central Florida implements two programs for teen fathers, Teen Fatherhood Academy and Dad to Dad Mentoring13. The National Fatherhood Initiative14 implements a number of programs and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse15 provides funding for programs that promote responsible fatherhood. 

Implementation Resources

DC-Fatherhood toolkit - Dad Central (DC). My dad matters toolkit.

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

NRFC - National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC).

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


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1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

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

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

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

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

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

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

14 NFI - National Fatherhood Initiative.

15 NRFC - National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC).