Contextual Issues

Greater attention needs to be paid to the role of context in determining father-child relationships. How do father-child interaction patterns shift between home and laboratory settings and across different types of interaction contexts such as play, teaching, and caregiving? Moreover, it is important to consider the social as well as the physical context. Recognition of the embeddedness of fathers in family contexts is critical, and, in turn, conceptualizing families as embedded in a variety of extrafamilial social settings is important for understanding variation in father functioning (Parke, 1996). In this regard, it is necessary to recognize that variations in family structure and in ethnicity and SES will modify significantly the ways in which social networks are organized and utilized. For example, the role of the extended family is much more prominent in some groups, such as African American and Mexican American than in other groups (Gadsen, 1999; Parke, Coltrane et al., in press; Wilson, 1986). Similarly, single-parent families may be more directly embedded in community-based social networks than two-parent families. Descriptions of these variations are necessary for an adequate understanding of the role of extrafamilial networks on fathers and family functioning.

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