The Impact of Attachment, Marital Satisfaction, and Work-Related Stressors on Fathers’ Parenting Behaviors
Ndidi A. Okeke, Lorraine C. Taylor, Melissa A. Barnett, and Tameka Oliphant The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fathers’ Adult Attachment
Although much is known about influences on maternal parenting behaviors, less attention has been given to understanding influences on fathers’ parenting. The goal of this study is to examine the relative contributions of
Hierarchical linear regression models estimated the impact of fathers’ adult attachment, marital satisfaction, and work-related stressors on sensitivity, intrusiveness, and detachment with his 24-month old child. Fathers’ depression and monthly income were controlled for in all models. Controls were added to the model in step 1. Each outcome variable, sensitivity,
three types of father factors that have been shown to relate to individual well-being in fathers. By identifying the
relative contributions of these 3 types of influences, the present study adds to the growing body of research on the unique ways in which fathers shape child development. Using data from a sample of 138 married, mostly
Marital Satisfaction Parenting Behaviors
Sensitivity , Intrusiveness, Detachment
intrusiveness, and detachment was analyzed separately. In step 2, 3, and 4 fathers’ adult attachment, marital satisfaction, and work-related stressors (measured by work satisfaction) were entered, respectively. Significant effects were only found when using father sensitivity
working class parents of 24 month old children, this study examines the relative influence of fathers’ own
attachment histories (intrapersonal factor), marital satisfaction (interpersonal factor), and work-related stressors as measured by work satisfaction (contextual factor), on his parenting sensitivity, intrusiveness, and detachment.
as the outcome variable. This model was only significant when adding work-related stressors, measured by work satisfaction. No significant interactions were found.
Hierarchical regression analyses were performed. After controlling for father’s depression and monthly income,
work satisfaction was the only significant predictor of fathers’ sensitivity.
BASELINE SAMPLE DESCRIPTION Mean Father’s Age: Father’s Education: Years Married: Monthly Family Income: 28.3 years 13.9 years 3.42 years $2,450 Range 19-41 9-22 5-17 $652-$5,000
Many factors shape fathers’ parenting behaviors. Attachment research supports relationships between fathers’ own attachment with caregivers and subsequent involvement with children (Parke, 1996). Positive attachment experiences may buffer some fathers against other negative influences and may bolster positive, supportive parenting behaviors. Although many intra-individual level factors may affect parenting, there is little research on how fathers’ own attachment experiences relate to other influences on parenting behaviors. Marital conflict, an interpersonal-level factor, has been shown to have a deleterious effect on parenting behaviors and child outcomes (Cummings & Davies, 1994). Some studies suggest that for fathers, marital conflict is related to detachment from wives and children and that marital discord “spills-over” into the
Table 1. Contribution of adult attachment, martial satisfaction, and work-related stressors on parenting sensitivity
Step and Predictor R2 ΔR2 F
1. Controls (depression, monthly income)
2. Fathers’ Attachment
3. Marital Satisfaction
4. Work-Related Stressors
Data are from a longitudinal study aimed at understanding how the birth of a first child impacts marriages and how the marital relationship influences parenting. Families were recruited from prenatal classes in a predominantly white, rural area of Hierarchical regression analyses * p<.05
parent-child relationship (Kerig et al., 1993). Work-related stressors are an important influence on the wellbeing of fathers. The role of fathers as “breadwinners” gives work-related stressors and income special salience as factors that may affect parenting behaviors. Repetti (1989) found that stressful work conditions
southeastern United States.
Fathers’ adult attachment and marital satisfaction did not significantly impact sensitivity,
intrusiveness, and detachment in parenting. Work-related stress, as measured in this model by work satisfaction, was the only significant predictor of sensitivity in parenting.
•Berkeley Adult Attachment Interview-prenatal assessment (George, Kaplan & Main, 1995) •Marital Satisfaction Scale-assessed at 24 mos (Huston, 1983) •Work Environment Scale-assessed at 24 mos (Moos, 1986) •Qualitative Rating for Parent-Child Interaction-assessed at 24 mos (Cox, 1997)
Sensitivity: parent’s awareness of the child’s needs, abilities, and signals
predicted greater expressions of anger and more use of discipline during father-child interactions. Higher
income fathers have increased levels of involvement, compared to lower income fathers (Carlson & McLanahan, 2002). This study examines contextual level factors such as fathers’ work-related stressors,
This work adds to the growing body of research on fathers by showing how contextual
level factors, such as work stressors, impact parenting. More work is needed to understand the many factors that shape and influence parenting behaviors in fathers. Future research should examine the roles mothers have in mediating the relationship between fathers’ work satisfaction and parenting behaviors.
measured by work satisfaction, and income as predictors of parenting behaviors and will test for interactions
with other levels of influence.
•Does fathers’ adult attachment impact sensitivity, intrusiveness, and detachment?
•Does marital satisfaction impact fathers’ sensitivity, intrusiveness, and detachment? •Do work-related stressors or fathers’ work satisfaction impact fathers’ sensitivity, intrusiveness, and detachment?
Intrusiveness: overstimulation, aggression, and control Detachment: parent is emotionally uninvolved
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to Martha Cox