Responsible Fatherhood Programs: Children Benefit from a More Integrated Family Approach
Nearly 20 million children (almost 1 in 4) live in a home without a resident father. These children are more likely to have social-emotional adjustment problems and failing grades at school, and to become involved in the juvenile justice system. To address the problems that arise from fathers’ physical or psychological absence from children’s lives, the U.S. Congress authorized in 2006 the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) initiative, allocating $150 million per year to two separate programs: Healthy Marriage (HM) programs to strengthen married and unmarried couple relationships; and Responsible Fatherhood (RF) programs to increase the active engagement of non-residential and residential fathers as parents, partners, and economic providers. While almost all RF programs offer group programs attended and led by men, with a focus on parenting and men’s mental health, this brief presents evidence which shows that fatherhood programs that include both parenting partners and expand the curriculum to cover multiple domains of family functioning not only increase father involvement and collaboration between parents, but also reduce harsh parenting and support children’s development. The brief also illustrates evidence to support a greater integration of RF and HM programs, the use of expanded curricula that cover multiple aspects of family life, and where more attention is to be paid when assessing the impact of these programs on parents and children.
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