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Defining the Paternal Role and Understanding the Effects of Paternal Role Consensus and Maternal Gatekeeping on Father Involvement in Non-cohabiting African American and Hispanic Adolescent Parents Open Access

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Existing research suggests that the level of consensus between fathers’ and mothers’ definitions of the father role (i.e., paternal role consensus) influences levels of maternal gatekeeping, or maternal regulation and restriction of father involvement (e.g., Fagan & Barnett, 2003). In turn, evidence shows that both paternal role consensus and maternal gatekeeping influence the level and quality of father involvement (e.g., Parke, 2002). However, most of this research is based on White, cohabiting parents, making it unclear whether these factors are as influential to father involvement among minority, non-cohabiting populations. The current study sought to extend this literature by examining the associations among paternal role consensus, maternal gatekeeping, and father involvement (father engagement, accessibility, and responsibility) among low-income, minority, non-cohabiting adolescent mothers and fathers (N = 96, 46 co-parent dyads) of two-year-old children. Paternal role consensus was derived by calculating Spearman rank order correlations between mothers’ and fathers’ rankings of six paternal role activities on a Q-sort task. The initial hypothesis that paternal role consensus would be negatively associated with maternal gatekeeping was not supported. Similarly, the hypothesis that paternal role consensus would be positively associated with father involvement was not supported. Lastly, consistent with the hypothesis that maternal gatekeeping would be negatively associated with father involvement, higher gatekeeping was associated with lower engagement and both total and in-kind child support; additionally, gatekeeping was negatively associated with the caregiving, physical care, and warmth subscales of engagement. Results have implications for parenting interventions, suggesting that non-cohabiting parents may benefit from help in defining expectations for the father role and gatekeeping, and how to resolve differences related to these issues.

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