Impact of Father Involvement on Infant Development Within the Realm of Pre-And Perinatal Psychology Term Paper

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Father Involvement in Infant Development

Studies showed that children whose father was more involved in their care exhibited greater security in their attachment than those whose father was less involved (Caldera, 2004). Infants of fathers who more actively participated in their care were more socially inclined, played independently with toys, more compliant and enjoyed a warmer relationship with their father. These infants and children also showed higher levels of self-control and capability to carry out their responsibilities and follow their parents' direction. In general, they were more adjusted. These studies also suggested that the attachment relationship with one parent influenced that with the other parent (Caldera).

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The father relieves the mother of some of the stress and worry in securing and maintaining oftentimes difficult-to-obtain infant care (Vandell, 1997). He provides the needed psychological boost if she perceives that the care arrangement is beneficial to the father and the infant. At other times, however, the mother may view him as a stress rather than a support or feel depressed and angry about the time he spends with the infant. She may also find fault with the way he takes care of the infant. Her overall dissatisfaction may affect their marriage. If she values father care, she will feel positive about him when he takes care of the infant. On the other hand, if the father is an unwilling care provider or she is not too sure about the quality of care he gives, she may also find him a less satisfactory marital partner. The length of time he spends taking care of the infant also affect his emotional well-being and marital satisfaction. The marriage will likely to be strengthened if he perceives father care as an important contribution to family life and happiness. But if father care is performed when both of them are employed and work at different time shifts, the father may get too tired. If they lack the time to be together or if the father complains that she does not help him enough with caring for the infant, the marriage can suffer (Vandell).

Term Paper on Impact of Father Involvement on Infant Development Within the Realm of Pre-And Perinatal Psychology Assignment

The Bureau of Census and Statistics said that the participation of mothers, particularly mothers of infants, increased from 32% in 1977 to 48% in 1985 and 55% in the early 1990s (Vandell, 1997). Working families have tried a range of arrangements for infant care while the mother is at work. These arrangements included day care centers, family day care home, and in-home sitters. According to the National Child Care surveys, 37% of surveyed working families rely on fathers to provide that care when the mothers are working. Some researches suggested that father reacted differently from mothers to such non-parental child care. A father is less likely than the mother to make those arrangements, as a typical American father has not yet traditionally established his role as an infant care taker. Hence, non-parental hours during infancy do not affect his emotional well-being and that depression becomes a problem more in her than in him as regards child-care difficulties. The first four months appear to be the most stressful period when the infant's immature nervous systems and demands for feeding, comfort and sleeping schedules tax its parents or caregivers. Fortunately, many families consider these stresses temporary and disappear by the end of the first year. The parents can look forward to less anxiety and depression at this period (Vandell).

Other studies on the involvement of fathers in the care of infants, especially just before and after birth, linked the development of lifetime factors such as depression, criminality and social success (Fletcher 2005). Surveyed adult children whose fathers were more intrusive and less emphatic had higher rates of eating disorders and depression and criminality. Infants whose father more actively cared for their fathers would tend to develop a stronger sense of belonging and defense against depression because of their fathers' warmth. Infant-father attachment was shown to be particularly significant for children when the mother's attachment to the children or infants was not secure. Parental sensitivity towards infants could, however, not be sufficiently measured and determined because most fathers interacted with infants only when the latter were in a positive mood. In general, father' competence as parents was viewed according to their capability to perform child care or other traditionally female household responsibilities or providing positive emotional experiences for their young. In general, a father's attachment to his infant occurred in the first months of life, which often dictated how their relationship would turn out to be in later years and influence the child's development (Fletcher).

The arrival of his first child is among the deepest changes in a man's life (Fletcher 2005). It changes his position in the community, his most intimate relationships and his very identity. It changes not only his legal identity but also his gathering of family members, whom he must begin to accommodate. In addition, he undergoes great changes in his relationship with the mother of the new person and must now make room for a new bond with a new individual. He may acknowledge the birth in a naive way, unprepared for the speed of the developments and the varying demands he must contend with and respond to. He needs to develop a new sense of self and a new identity in this new family structure in pursuing a full and satisfying family life. In the least and at the outset, he must confront the need for the physical care and sustenance of the infant in support of the mother in her new role. At the same time, the new event requires mental and emotional resources in order to enter into the new relationship and make it secure and nourishing for all involved (Fletcher).

A new baby requires its care givers' emotional availability in addition to physical care and stimulation and these providers are usually the mother and the father (Fletcher 2005). The mother and the father individually need to manage their own emotional needs and balance in order to respond to the demand and appropriately provide for the needs of the infant. The factors, which place the infant at risk, are not only individual characteristics but also its intimate relationships. If these relationships are lacking or impaired, the unfilled need or physiological and psychological changes in the infant would tend to increase the risk of maladaptive behaviors later in the infant's life. The main care giver has been traditionally the mother and the father has been relegated as a mere helper, along with grandparents, other relatives, neighbors and friends. Daniel Stern, a leading theorist, explained that the father and the other care givers would provide the support needed by the mother to fulfill her role. From this frame work, the role of the father has been only to support the mother of the child and thus intervention services do not seem necessary for him. But he has needs, which must be understood and addressed (Fletcher).

Expectant fathers reported similar symptoms as their pregnant wives in the form of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal bloating, which they could not explain (Fletcher 2005). An interview with 100 expectant fathers revealed that they went through three phases in their emotional involvement during the pregnancy. The first was the announcement phase, during which they experienced joy or shock, depending on whether they desired the pregnancy. The second phase was the moratorium phase, during which they put the pregnancy outside of consciousness for a time. The third phase was when they perceived the pregnancy as real and important. The subjects said that they groped for the essence of the experience of new fatherhood from friends, workmates and family. Some of them expressed eagerness in participating as fully as possible in the pregnancy and primary child care while the rest felt threatened by the pregnancy and ascribed their anxiety on the woman's responsibility for it. The examinations of mothers with postnatal psychiatric illness found that 42% of fathers/husbands suffered from schizophrenia and affective disorders. Depression appeared to occur most often in both father and mother at six weeks to six months after the birth of the infant. Fathers developed depression most often when the mothers had the depression and most often at 18 weeks gestation and eight weeks after birth. Distressed fathers who lived with their similarly distressed partners developed the condition most often from birth to 12 months. Fathers expressed their depression as irritability or discouragement. Most of them managed to cover up for the depression through socially acceptable means of working for long hours. Special intervention can be secured if there is sufficient justification that his distress was analogous to that of the mother. This would then point to the unique role a father played in infant development and his potential benefit to its care. It would then make early intervention preferable to intervention when maladaptive behavior occurred in case of family disruption in later time. Doing this would radically affect the nature and style of service provision to fathers (Fletcher).

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