The Father Role: Development of an Attitude Assessment Instrument

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This study attempted to create a psychometrically sound assessment instrument to measure fathers' attitudes toward their role as a father. Social learning theory and sex-role theory provided a conceptual framework for viewing the father role. Four aspects of fathering were discerned from the literature: Cl) relationship of fatherhood to child rearing; C2) relationship of fatherhood to the marital dyad and the family as a whole; C3) relationship of fatherhood to the man's self- identity; and (4) relationship of fatherhood to wider societal, cultural and familial influences. Items reflecting each aspect were generated for a questionnaire by interviewing fathers and scanning the fathering literature. The self-administered questionnaires (220 items plus demographic questions) were completed by a sample of 360 fathers, characterized as reasonably "middle-class." Responses were made to each item based on a 5-point Disagree-to-Agree scale.

Factor analysis (Varimax rotation) yielded nine scales which accounted for 59% of the test variance. Scale 1 indicates fatherhood is "something to be tolerated" with fathers being somewhat "distant" from their children. Scale 2 indicated that there are many significant "rewards and satisfactions" from being a father. Scale 3 was a dimension of "felt confidence" in one's effectiveness as a father, with strong indications of "self-evaluation." Scale 4 indicated fathers have a strong desire for "fuller participation and more involvement" as a father, and identified some of the barriers that block that involvement. Scale 5 indicated fathers feel "burdened and overwhelmed" by the responsibilities of fatherhood. Scale 6 identified a child rearing posture of maintaining tight control over the child to "mold the child." Scale 7 indicated a posture of child rearing where the father was "emotionally involved" with the child and encouraged the child's unique personhood to emerge. Scale 8 indicated that fathers feel some very strong "familial and cultural" expectations on their role as a father. Scale 9 indicated that fatherhood can have a strong impact on the "marital relationship," for better or worse.

Reliabilities for each scale (with 9 or 10 items per scale) ranged from 0.59 to 0.81. Each of the four aspects of the father role was supported by at least one of the nine scales. The main tenets of social learning theory and sex role theory appear to be supported, at least in part, by the results.

Implications arising from the clusters of attitudes represented by the nine scales are discussed, as are issues about the sample. Areas of potential usefulness of the final instrument (termed The Fathering Attitude Survey) are identified (e.g., clinical and educational realms). Directions for future research using The Fathering Attitude Survey, as well as on the instrument itself, are examined.

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