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Resilience of fathers’ involvement after a family break down: Points of view of fathers and mothers living in poverty. Gilles Tremblay, Laval University Francine Allard, Public Health Division of the National Capîtal. Presentation plan. What we know Main question of our two studies

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Resilience of fathers’ involvement after a family break down: Points of view of fathers and mothers living in poverty

Gilles Tremblay, Laval University

Francine Allard, Public Health Division of the National Capîtal

presentation plan
Presentation plan
  • What we know
  • Main question of our two studies
  • What we have learned from the fathers
  • What we have learned from the mothers
  • What we have learned from these 2 studies
  • Issues for the father involvement
paternal involvement
Paternal involvement
  • Many dimensions of paternal involvement (Prospère; Arama, 1996; Meynard, 1996)
    • A father who is responsible, affectionate, caring, in interaction, available, breadwinner, educator, evocative, who plays with his child
  • But also (Lanoue & Cloutier, 1996; Tremblay, 1999)
    • A father who supports the mother, who gives access to a social network and who is called to mind, especially by the mother (Osherson, 1986)
family breakdowns
Family breakdowns
  • 50% canadian families (ELNEJ, 1995)
  • More and more younger in the life of children (Marcil-Gratton, 1998)
    • 63% before age 10
  • Most fathers become non resident (Dulac, 1995; Kruck, 1993)
    • Even if the share custudy is more in use, in fact, most often the custody by the mother remains the most spread form used in Canada
  • Half of non-resident fathers stop rapidly to have contact with their children (Marcil-Gratton, 1998; Quéniart &Fournier, 1996)
factors of paternal involvement
Factors of paternal involvement
  • Degree of identification of his father role (Ihinger-Tallman et al.,1995 ; Madden-Derdich & Leonard, 2000)
    • Linked with his feeling of having parental skills? (Dudley, 1996; Seltzer, 1991; Hetherington & Stanley-Hagan, 2002)
  • Perception of his duty and expectations of others (Ihinger-Tallman et al.,1995)
  • Quality of his relationship with his ex-wife (Madden-Derdich & Leonard, 2000)
  • Controle on decisions regarding the child (Madden-Derdich & Leonard, 2000)
living in poverty
Living in poverty
  • Sensibility of fathers about living in a precarious economic situation (Fagan, 2000)
  • More stress (Elder et al., 1985;Mosley & Thomson, 1995)
  • Insistance of Tribunal on charging fathers (faire payer) may weaken paternal involvement (Johnson, 2000)
  • Scapping the father (Larson et al. ,1996)
  • Double poverty for children (Marsiglio & Cohan, 2000)
main question
Main question

How paternal involvement may survive to a family breakdown in poverty ?

two studies
Two studies
  • Qualitative study with 15 fathers living in poverty who consider themselves as being still involved with their child after the family breakdown
  • Qualitative study with 15 mothers living in poverty who consider the ex-husband as being still involved with the child after the family breakdown
  • More than 6 months after the family breakdown, low schooling, preschool child

A. Fathers who stand up to adversities for maintaining their involvement

  • First reactions similar to disengaged fathers(Dulac, 1998)
  • Discontinuity, decreasing of their parental role only to the breadwinner, conflits with the ex-wife

… take effect as sparks stimulating them to continue and not run out of their parental responsabilities(Kruck, 1993; Quéniart et al., 1996)


B. Paternal involvement beneficial to the child

  • Paternal involvement after a family breakdown similar to well known conceptions(Lamb, 1986; ProsPère)
  • Good father-child relationship after the family breakdown (Amato & Gilbreth, 1999)-
  • Some feel as being better fathers(Karp, 2000)
  • Low frequence of contacts may be harmfull to maintain a good discipline(Amato & Gilbreth, 1999)

C. Paternal involvement after a family breakdown and poverty

  • Being a responsible father anf facing poverty (Allard & Binet, 2002)
  • Dilemma between to work or stay with the child. To work=pay an alimony and stay far away of the child
  • Importance of financal support of the father against child poverty(Marsiglio, 2000)
  • A father who not pays an alimony is not necessarily a disengaged father(Roy, 1999)

D. Factors contributing to the resilience of the paternal involvement despite adversities

An interactive spiral


a) Father’s believes regarding his parental role and his personal skills

  • Perception of parental roles
  • Deep feeling of having parental competence
  • Perception of having control on decisions concerning the child
  • Able to seek help
  • Able to stay away from disruptive environment

b) Perceptions regarding the child

  • Value granted to the child
  • Influence he thinks he has on the child
  • Concern about the child

c) Relationship with the ex-wife

Tension between:

  • Staying away from the mother’s control, or being different from her
  • Developping good links with her:

- A positive parental alliance = good for the child

- Better sharing of parental responsabilities: more and more when the relationship with the mother gets improved


d) A support network

  • Relatives who believe in the paternal role and help the father
  • Good role models available
  • Resources available in the community for unpriveledged families
factors which get the mothers favorising paternal involvement
Factors which get the mothers favorising paternal involvement
  • Conviction of the importance father-child realtionships
  • Belief in mother as being the main parent
  • Quality of the relationship with the ex-husband, and for some, the experience of domestic violence
  • Quality of the father-child relationships
  • Benefits associated with the présence of the father
gate keeper role
Gate-keeper Role
  • For most of them, confidence takes place up to, for some, a form of parental alliance
  • For others, mostly those who reported having experienced domestic violence, a more strong control is maintained or sometimes, they reported having closed their eyes on the child security being afraid of a potential end of the benifits of the presence of the father or of creating conflicts with him
conditions for a parental alliance
Conditions for a parental alliance
  • Sharing a same vision on how to raise a child
  • Communicating between parents about the child
  • Staying away of puting the child between the parents in a conflict
  • Differentiating conjugal and parental affairs
  • Maintaining a good link between the child and the father = important value
  • This value has been developed in a non-linear process
    • Fathers had to fight adversities
    • Mothers had to get confident in the father’s skills and lose the hold on the gate
tension zone
Tension zone
  • Relationships with the ex-wife
  • Discipline
  • Financial support from the father
  • In some cases, domestic violence
for clinical intervention
For clinical intervention
  • Does the father want to be involved?
  • Does the mother want the father be involved?
  • Does the social network believe in the importance of the paternal involvement?
  • Do practitioners believe in the importance of the paternal involvement and how do they help parents in developing parental alliance mecanisms for the best interest of the child?
  • In cases of domestic or family violence, which mecanisms have to be in place to assure the security of the children and the mother?
for social policies
For social policies
  • Which mecanisms have been created to support the paternal involvement
  • 2 examples:
    • Public Health policies
      • Staying away from the « toxic father » approach
      • Having a more systemic approach on family policies
      • Priorizing the father involvement
    • Tribunal
      • Non focus only on financial support
      • Favorizing the share custody