Supporting Father Involvement: An Intervention With Community and Child Welfare - Referred Couples.

Feb 2019 | Marsha Kline Pruett. Philip A Cowan. Carolyn Pape Cowan. Peter Gillette. Kyle D. Pruett.


Objective: To expand the evidence base of the Supporting Father Involvement (SFI) intervention to include child welfare families. 

Background: Taking a preventative father-inclusive approach, SFT aims to strengthen coparenting, parent-child relationships, and child outcomes. This study replicates 4 prior iterations of the program using the same 32-hour curriculum facilitated by clinically trained staff, case managers, and onsite child care and family meals. 

Method: Participants (N=239) included low-income (median $24,000) coparenting pairs, typically mothers and fathers/father figures, half of whom were Mexican American, with toddlers (median age < 3 years). Questionnaires assessing multiple family domains were administered verbally over an 18-month period. Intervention effectiveness was tested through a randomized control trial with immediate treatment or waitlist-control groups using a moderated mediator structural equation model. 

Results: The model explained 49% to 56% of the variance in children's problem behaviors (intervention and autoregressive effects). The intervention reduced couple conflict, which reduced anxious and harsh parenting, leading to better child outcomes. The intervention was equally effective for community and child welfare-referred families and family dynamics pathways were similar across conditions.

Conclusion: With its intentional outreach and inclusion of fathers, SFT offers an effective intervention for lower risk child welfare-involved families.

Implications: Results argue for the utility of treating community and child welfare parents in mixed-gender prevention groups that focus on strengthening multiple levels of family relationships. 

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