Arizona State University examines father-teen relationships with NIH grant

July 25, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz.-Three researchers from Arizona State University are teaming up with two University of California-Riverside researchers to study how fathers and stepfathers influence the mental health and behavior of teenagers. The five-year comprehensive research will be funded with a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Understanding how fathers affect their adolescent children for better or worse is an important step to understanding important social and cultural factors in our society, said Sanford Braver, ASU lead investigator. 'Adolescence is the stage where kids tend to fall off the path, but also when fathers tend to take on a special and important role in protecting their children from the perils of adolescence.'

Other principal investigators are William Fabricius and Delia Saenz, ASU, and Ross Parke, and Scott Coltrane, UC Riverside. All the investigators have a history of significant research accomplishments relating to fathers and children.

The researchers will study 400 families recruited from public schools in greater Phoenix, Arizona and the Southern California Inland Empire region. Each family will include a seventh-grader who will be finished with 10th grade by the conclusion of the study in 2007. Family members will be questioned about family organizational practices, how each family member perceives the father's role and how those ideals influence the happiness or success of the adolescent. Researchers hope to include school records and teacher assessments in their analysis, Braver said.

Additionally, the researchers will conduct their study among Mexican American families and European American families to see if cultural differences influence the outcome, and among birth-fathers and step-fathers to test how biological bonds influence the relationship between fathers and their teenaged children. Coltrane says the study results will be reported so that differences are clear in the relationships between father and daughters and fathers and sons.

The study will begin by recruiting families in Spring 2003. Researchers will work with large and diverse school districts in the Phoenix metropolitan area, including Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler and Glendale. Inland Empire school districts will include San Bernardino City, Riverside and the Corona-Norco Unified District. The Phoenix-based research will be conducted through the Arizona State University Preventative Intervention Research Center.

Already, the researchers have created focus groups with Mexican American and European American mothers, fathers and children to define important questions related to fatherhood.

'The cultural differences are important to this study, but we are equally interested in data that will begin to identify culturally-universal concepts of fatherhood and how those ideas contribute to the development of children,' said Fabricius.

The study fits into 'The Fatherhood Initiative' a federal directive in June 1995 to document, understand and support the roles of fathers in families. 'Enormous gaps remain in our knowledge about how fathers serve to a protective resources and sources of stress for their children,' Coltrane said. 'The critical issues involve exactly how fathers impact the development of mental health and behavioral problems in the children as well as preparing them to be successful adults in a rapidly changing world.'
Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, is the model metropolitan research university for the 21st Century serving more than 45,000 students. ASU's Research Extensive status is integral to strengthening our diverse and rapidly growing population center and offers the highest quality in teaching and research.

Media Contact:
Kris Lovekin, UC Riverside
(909) 787-5008

Sanford Braver, (480) 965-5405
William Fabricius, (480) 965-9372
Delia Saenz, (480) 965-3347

Arizona State University

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