Outcomes of father involvement

18 April 2005

In recent years there has been considerable research from the US on positive outcomes for children whose fathers become ‘involved’ in their care. The purpose of a recent UK study carried out by Drs. Eirini Flouri and Ann Buchanan at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of Oxford, was to discover whether there was similar evidence in the UK using longitudinal data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS). NCDS is an ongoing longitudinal study of some 17,000 children who were born in England, Wales and Scotland in one week in 1958. These children have been followed up at frequent intervals during their childhood and into adult life. In NCDS we were able to explore fathers’ involvement with their children when the children were aged 7, 11, and 16 years of age.

An ‘involved’ father, as defined in this research, is a father who reads to his child, takes outings with his child, is interested in his child’s education and takes a role equal to mother’s in managing his child. He may or may not live with the child’s mother, and he may or may not be the biological father to the child. Below is a summary of the main findings. 

Early father involvement with a child is associated with continuing involvement

with that child throughout childhood and adolescence. Generally once fathers are ‘involved’ they remain involved with that child throughout childhood. At different ages, fathers related to their children in different ways, but the underlying concept of father involvement is a continuous one. At age 7, fathers are more likely to be ‘involved’ where mothers are also involved and when the child does not have emotional and behavioural problems, but the practice is less strong amongst manual workers. With older children father involvement is inversely related to family size and poor school performance. Although financial difficulties in the family are not related to whether father is involved at ages 7 or 11, with younger children, fathers are less likely to be involved where there is domestic tension in the home. Generally, the higher the level of a father’s education, the greater is the likelihood of his involvement with his children. Maternal employment is associated with less paternal interest in education but only in younger children.

Father involvement is associated with good parent-child relationships in adolescence

and also with later satisfactory partnerships in adult life  Good father-child relations are associated with an absence of emotional and behavioural difficulties in adolescence and greater academic motivation. Teenagers feel close to their fathers when their fathers are involved with them as they were growing up. However, feelings of closeness to mother in adolescence are unrelated to the mother’s early level of involvement with the child. When the children grow up those who have felt close to their fathers in adolescence are more likely to have satisfactory adult marital relationships.

Children with involved fathers are less likely to be in trouble with the police

Boys in particular are less likely to be in trouble with the police where they have ‘involved’ fathers. This relationship persisted even when we took into account several factors which are associated with adolescent delinquency. 

Father involvement protects children in separated families against later mental health problems 

Involvement of the father or a father figure has a significantly protective role against psychological problems in adolescents in families where parents have separated. This finding is independent of whether mothers are also involved. The association between father involvement in adolescence and psychological distress in adult life is stronger for daughters than for sons. Therefore, early father involvement has an important protective role against both later psychological maladjustment in children where parents have separated, and against adult psychological distress in women.

Father involvement is strongly related to children’s later educational attainment

Father involvement at age 7 and mother involvement at age 7 significantly and independently predict higher educational attainment by age 20 for both girls and boys.

Early father involvement protects against an adult experience of homelessness in sons of manual workers

As might be expected absence of partners in women, and psychological distress and large families in men are the key predictors of welfare dependency. For both men and women low educational attainment predicts whether they would be living in council housing and whether they are receiving state benefits. However, both father and mother involvement in families of manual workers is highly protective against an adult experience of homelessness in their sons.

Early father involvement does not protect against unemployment in adult children when other factors are taken into account. However, men with involved mothers when they were growing up were less likely to be unemployed than men with uninvolved mothers.


The research findings from this project, and from other research, are now brought together in an easy-to-read book:

Flouri E (2004) Fathering and Child Outcomes (Wiley – www.wiley.com)

The url for ordering the book online is: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-WILEYEUROPE_SEARCH_RESULT.html?queryText=flouri&field=author

In addition, specific findings from the Buchanan/Flouri research are published in a range of academic journals, as follows:
Welsh, E. Buchanan, A. Flouri, E. & Lewis, J. (2004) ‘Involved’ fathering and child well-being: Fathers’ involvement with secondary school age children. National Children’s Bureau for the Rowntree Foundation Parenting in Practice series
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2004) ‘Childhood families of homeless and poor adults in Britain: A prospective study.’ Journal of Economic Psychology, 25, p.1-14
Flouri, E. (2004) ‘Correlates of parents’ involvement with their adolescent children in restructured and biological two-parent families: The role of child characteristics.’ International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 148-156,
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2004) Early father’s and mother’s involvement and child’s later educational outcomes British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 141-153
Flouri, E (2004) ‘Exploring the relationship between mothers’ and fathers’ parenting practices and children’s materialist values.’ Journal of Economic Psychology, 25, 743-752
Flouri, E. (2004) Parental background and political attitudes in British adults. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 25, 245-254
Flouri, E. (2004) Subjective well-being in midlife: The role of involvement of and closeness to parents in childhood Journal of Happiness Studies, 5, 335-358
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2003)’The role of father involvement and mother involvement in adolescents’ psychological well-being.’ British Journal of Social Work 33, 399-406 
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2003) ‘The role of father involvement in children’s later mental health.’ Journal of Adolescence, 26, 63-78
Flouri, E. (2003) ‘Parental socialization in childhood and offspring materialist and postmaterialist values in adult life.’ Journal of Economic Psychology, 25, 1-14
Flouri, E. (2003) ‘Parental socialization in childhood and offspring materialist and postmaterialist values in adult life.’ Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 2106-2122
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2003) ‘The role of mother involvement and father involvement in adolescent bullying behavior.’ Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 634-644
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A.  (2003) ‘What predicts fathers’ involvement with their children? A prospective study of intact families’. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21, 81-97
Flouri, E, Buchanan, A & Bream, V. (2002) ‘Adolescents’ perceptions of their fathers’ involvement: Significance to school attitudes’ Psychology in the Schools, 39, 575-582
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2002) ‘Childhood predictors of labor force participation in adult life.’ Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 23, 101-120
Buchanan, A Flouri, E & Ten Brinke, J. (2002) ‘Emotional and behavioural problems in childhood and distress in adult life: Risk and protective factors’. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36, 521-527
Flouri, E. (2002) ‘Exploring the relationship between mothers’ and fathers’ parenting practices and their materialist values’ in Proceedings of the XXVII Annual Colloquium on Research in Economic Psychology/SABE 2002 Conference on Behavioural Economics. Turku, Finland, pp. 134-140
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A.  (2002) ‘Father involvement in childhood and trouble with the police in adolescence: Findings from the 1958 British birth cohort’. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, 689-701
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2002) ‘Life satisfaction in teenage boys: The moderating role of father involvement and bullying’. Aggressive Behavior, 2002, 28, 126-133
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2002) ‘The protective role of parental involvement in adolescent suicide.’ Crisis, 23, 17-22
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2002) ‘The role of work-related skills and career role models in adolescent career maturity’. Career Development Quarterly, 52, 36-43
Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2002) ‘What predicts good relationships With parents in adolescence and partners in adult life: Findings from the 1958 British birth cohort’. Journal of Family Psychology, 16, 186-198
Flouri, E. (2001) ‘Early predictors of post-materialist values in Environment and Well-being, Proceedings of the XXVI Annual Colloquium of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology. Bath, UK, pp. 74-78 
Flouri, E & Buchanan, A. (2001) ‘Father time’. Community Care, 4-10 October, 42 2001

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