Agency Fatherhood Involvement Program

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Assessing an Early Head Start Agency Fatherhood Involvement Program

Chapter 3: Methodology

Measuring father participation in Early Head Start programs is critical for the mission of father involvement programs (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Lamb, & Boller, 1999). The role of fathers must be understood so that fathers will be targeted for inclusion in programs for the well-being of the children. A primary effect of improving child outcomes has been established and it is possible, with proper care, to increase the number of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers through skills-based fatherhood programs such as Head Start's. The purpose of the proposed investigation is twofold: (a) to examine early childhood educators' efforts to involve fathers in their programs, and (b) to determine which program efforts lead to greater father involvement.

The proposed research uses a mixed methods approach to study father involvement. The focus of the proposed study, will be to evaluate father involvement in a single skills-based Head Start program where activities will be aimed at enabling fathers enrolled in the program to participate in the financial, emotional, and intellectual support of their children.

As noted above, there were two phases involved in producing the present research proposal, the first involving the proper development of the research questions to form a basis for investigating fathers' involvement in Head Start, and the second to set up a way to investigate the fathers' involvement in Head Start before and after the father involvement program. The first of these processes is described in the present section.

Parameters of the Study

In order to produce meaningful research questions, preliminary work on-site was conducted to determine the basic parameters for study. Three parameters of father involvement with children needed to provide study factors for the research questions (see “Research Questions”: (a) quality of father involvement; (b) father self-efficacy; and (c) staff activities and attitudes with respect to father involvement.

Quality of father involvement. Very little research has measured father involvement in terms of quality. Marsiglio et al. (2000) argues that the relation between the quality and emotional value of father involvement does not necessarily reflect the depth or quality of involvement. It is even suggested that the two might be independent.

However, other research, including at other Head Start programs, has shown that simple participation of fathers in their children's early childhood programs is beneficial to children. Thus, while statements concerning the quality of interaction may be speculative, a father's participation in his child's early childhood development has been established as having a positive, measurable effect on child outcomes. Therefore, it can be assumed that the quantitative value of father's participation is worth measuring as a proxy for quality. That is, more positive (documented) relationship interactions will predict higher positive quality value.

The critical aspect of “positive” (documented) interaction became the fundamental problem for investigating the quality of father involvement, which Research Question 1 was designed to address. Staff observation will play a critical role in providing information regarding quality of interaction and frequency of involvement as well ...
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