A just-published meta-analysis of fatherhood program evaluations shows that those programs are effective.
Funded by the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network, this meta-analysis, which is only the second such analysis conducted on fatherhood programs, is by far the more comprehensive of the two. The first meta-analysis included only 16 studies compared to the 34 studies in this meta-analysis. Moreover, while the first meta-analysis focused on studies of programs that served primarily White, middle- to upper-income, resident fathers, this one focused on programs that served primarily unmarried, low-income, nonresident fathers, a population particularly vulnerable to absence from the lives of their children.
As a result of that focus, the overall research question was:
“How effective are responsible fatherhood programs at increasing unmarried, low-income non-resident fathers’ involvement, parenting, coparenting behavior, employment, economic prospects, and child support payments?”
After examining each of the included studies, the researchers decided to analyze the results against the following five outcomes:
- Father involvement (e.g. any interaction the father had with his child)
- Parenting (e.g. skills developed in regards to positive parenting)
- Father employment and economic well-being (e.g. administrative data tracking quarterly wages, employment status, and increase in paid work hours)
- Payment of child support (e.g. formal and informal payments, administrative data on arrears, and payment of arrears)
Next, the researchers created an aggregate score that combined the outcomes into “one common measure of program success.” They analyzed the combined results of the studies on that common measure and also determined whether there was a positive impact on each of five outcomes separately. For the effect on the common measure, they found a significant, positive effect. For each of the outcomes, they found:
- A significant, positive effect on father involvement, parenting, and coparenting behavior
- A non-significant effect on father employment and economic well-being and on payment of child support
For details on the methodology used by the researchers, please read the report. You will also find a discussion of the findings with important caveats (e.g. limitations) about the meta-analysis.
This meta-analysis is an important contribution to evaluations of fatherhood programs. It is important not only because it is one of only two such studies and because of its focus on a vulnerable population of fathers. Its importance also lies in its contribution to advancing a still limited collection of quality evaluations of fatherhood programs.
How familiar are you with evaluations of fatherhood programs?
Have you perused the evaluations funded and the outstanding evaluation resources provided by the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network?