Meanings of good nonresidential fathering: The recollections of young adults with a childhood experience of divorce

Date

2010-12

Authors

Wages, Alan

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the meanings of good nonresidential fathering from the recollections of young adults with a childhood experience of divorce. An additional purpose was to identify barriers and contributions to good nonresidential fathering from the viewpoint of young adults. A phenomenological perspective was used to derive meanings from participants' experiences with a nonresident father during their childhood. The rationale for this study was to bring clarity to the role of the nonresident father by giving voice to the experiences and meanings of adult child. Participants with a nonresidential father and a childhood experience of divorce provided descriptions for (1) the meaning of good nonresidential fathering, (2) barriers to good nonresidential fathering, and (3) contributing factors to good nonresidential fathering.

Focus groups were used as the main method of data collection. The researcher moderated 4 focus group sessions with a total of 16 participants. Five participants agreed to a follow-up interview, providing additional insights from their focus group responses. The researcher recorded, transcribed, and coded data for themes using a phenomenological method of analysis by Moustakas (1994). A synthesis of created meanings connected themes and subthemes to describe an essence of good nonresidential fathering for these participants.

Through an analysis of participants' descriptions a number of themes emerged for each research question. Concerning meanings of good nonresidential fathering, participants identified significant elements such as a father being present, being consistent in being present, and wanting to be present. Additionally, a good nonresidential father knows his child's interests and accepts who they are. A prominent theme included a father's demonstration of care through encouragement, meeting his child's needs, and being present at events that are valued by his child. Finally, a good nonresidential father is a responsible role model that teaches and models responsible behaviors.

Themes that emerged from participants' descriptions of barriers to good nonresidential fathering included a father's indifference towards his child, a father's personal barriers that inhibited good nonresidential fathering qualities, strained interactions that felt awkward to the participant, and family barriers that caused tension and conflict. Contributions to good nonresidential fathering included those factors that motivated or aided in a father's involvement. From participants' perspective, contributing factors included a realization of their father's importance in their life, pressure from others and himself, encouragement from others, and placing value in his child's life.

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Keywords

Education, Social sciences, Children of divorce, Fatherhood, Noncustodial fathering, Nonresidential fathering, Phenomenology

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