Low-income fathers' and mothers' perceptions of the father role: A qualitative study in four early head start communities

Jean Ann Summers, Helen Raikes, James Butler, Paul Spicer, Barbara Pan, Sarah Shaw, Mark Langager, Carol Mcallister, Monique K. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


A qualitative inquiry in four Early Head Start Research sites explored the question of how low-income mothers and fathers view the role of fathers in their families. Role perceptions were gathered from a total of 56 parents of infants and toddlers across the four sites, using multiple data collection methods that included focus groups, open-ended interviews, and one case study. The data were analyzed to identify common themes across sites. The participants identified roles that included: providing financial support, "being there," care giving, outings and play, teaching and discipline, providing love, and protection. Implications of these qualitative findings are discussed with respect to their relationship to current theoretical frameworks about father roles. Further, these findings shed light on the question of whether low-income families view parenting roles as being relatively discrete (i.e., separate or "traditional" functions of mothers and fathers), or whether they view their roles in a more blended, co-parenting perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-304
Number of pages14
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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