Fathers’ involvement reduces stress for both parents

A mother and father sit on the floor with their daughter.

Published February 6, 2024

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Jangmin Kim

Jangmin Kim.

When fathers are active co-parents, their involvement reduces the stress that both caregivers feel from parenting and within their relationship, according to a new study co-authored by a University at Buffalo School of Social Work researcher.

Assistant Professor Jangmin Kim, PhD, and colleagues published, “Actor and Partner Effects of Interparental Relationship and Co-Parenting on Parenting Stress Among Fathers and Mothers” in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services.

In Young Park, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Boston College, led the study. Co-authors were Jenn Lee Bellamy, PhD, of the University of Denver; S. Rachel Speer, PhD, of Bryn Mawr College; Kim of UB; Jin Yao Kwan, PhD, of the University of Delaware; Paula Powe, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh; Aaron Banman, PhD, of the University of Nebraska Omaha; Justin S. Harty, PhD, of Arizona State University; and Neil B. Guterman, PhD, of New York University.

Abstract

Despite increasing father involvement in rearing their children, research on the determinants of parenting stress has focused on mothers, ignoring the mutual influence between the two parents — fathers and mothers. Using the actor-partner interdependence model, we examined fathers’ and mothers’ reciprocal influences on parenting stress, with a focus on interparental relationship and co-parenting. Data from 174 couple dyads from the Dads Matter-HV© program were analyzed.

Findings showed that both mothers’ and fathers’ co-parenting directly reduced their own parenting stress. Fathers’ co-parenting significantly mediated the association between their own interparental relationship and parenting stress and the association between their own interparental relationship and mothers’ parenting stress. Findings suggest fathers’ perceptions of co-parenting are an important protective factor to be targeted by early child and family programs among parents at risk for chronic and parenting stress.

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This research contributes to one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work tackling our nation's toughest social problems: Ensure healthy development for youth.