• Nonresidential father-child involvement: Fathers' and mothers' perspectives in acrimonious divorce relationships

      Snow, Robert James; Greif, Geoffrey L. (2002)
      Divorce has affected more than 1,000,000 children each year. Within two years of their parents' divorce, roughly 50% of children will have contact with their father less than twice per year. Using a symbolic interactionist theoretical framework, the purpose of this study was to expand the conceptualization of father-child involvement from the perspectives of divorced parental dyads and to identify the origins and mechanisms that promote and discourage paternal involvement. A convenience sample of nonresidential fathers was recruited from the state chapter of a national organization that promotes shared parenting. Mothers were recruited after the fathers agreed to participate. Seven matched parental dyads were interviewed separately on three occasions using the methodology of Glaser and Strauss's grounded theory and Lincoln and Guba's naturalistic inquiry. Applying the method of constant comparative analysis, the data were coded and categorized, themes and properties were identified and attached to categories, and working hypotheses were developed into grounded theory. Trustworthiness of the data was demonstrated through triangulation of the data, peer debriefing, and auditing of the data. Father-child involvement was a function of the interactive processes between parental definitions of self and other and the accompanying role expectations. Parental identity was formulated in the family of origin, supported by their social support network, and implemented with their children. Performance of their parental role without interference allowed them to formulate a "good parent identity" (GPI). Conflict arose when parents had disparate definitions and expectations of the other parents' role performance. Obstructions or threats to the enactment of the GPI created conflict between the parental dyads. Conflict escalated when parents saw themselves as victims of the other parents' behavior and they were unable to act in the best interest of their children. Parents maintained their GPI with various strategies including litigation, parent-child alliance building, parental alienation, and parental abduction of their children. These findings have strong implications at both the micro and macro levels of social work practice. Social workers can increase father-child involvement by protecting the GPI of both parents. Zealous advocacy of a parent may produce further harm to the client and the children involved by creating a threat to the other parent's GPI. Parents will employ extreme strategies to minimize intense threats to their GPI. Macro level interventions include the recommendations for parental and professional educational programs and policy development that will enhance GPI. Suggestions for social work education and further research are discussed. Findings from this study are limited to the context from which they were derived.