Engaging fathers: Expanding the scope of evidence-based home visiting programs

Jan 2022 | Cynthia Osborne, Jacqueline DeAnda, Kaeley Benson



This descriptive study broadens the scope of father participation in home visiting and examines how fathers' participation varies by demographic and family characteristics.


Consistent and supportive father involvement is associated with positive outcomes for children. Although parenting programs during early childhood provide opportunities to influence fathers' involvement with their children, father participation in these programs is low.


We developed and administered a survey to mothers participating in home visiting programs (N = 1,386) to describe how fathers participate in home visiting programs. A series of logistic regression analyses were used to describe how father participation varied across key factors.


Fathers frequently engaged with home visiting in ways that were more indirect, and therefore go unreported by home visitors (e.g., asking mothers about a missed home visit, doing homework or practicing lessons from the visit with the child). Father participation varied based on the relationship and coresidence status between the child's mother and father, father's employment status, and age of the child.


Findings suggest that fathers engage in home visiting more frequently than previously measured, as they often participate in ways that are not directly observed and reported by home visitors.


Expanding the scope of what defines father participation provides home visiting program staff a better understanding of how fathers participate in the programs and, consequently, how to target father engagement strategies. Informed engagement strategies may be more effective for increasing father engagement and the impact of father participation for families and children.

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