Methodological Issues

It is likely that no single methodological strategy will suffice for understanding of the development of the father's role in the family. Instead, a wide range of designs and data collection and data analysis strategies is necessary (Parke, 2000). To date, there is still a paucity of information concerning interrelations across molar and molecular levels of analysis. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that a microanalytic strategy is not always more profitable in terms of describing relationships among interactive partners; in fact, in some cases, ratings may be a more useful approach. A set of guidelines concerning the appropriate level of analysis for different questions would be helpful.

Men's own reports have been underutilized in most research. Self-reports are not a substitute for observational data but can provide important information that can aid in interpretation of observed patterns (Goodnow and Collins, 1991). Moreover, recent work on the cultural images of fatherhood that are shared by both fathers themselves and by the wider society have profited from reliance on men's own reports and narratives (Dollahite, Hawkins, and Brotherson, 1997; Marsiglio, 1993; Maurer, Pleck and Rane, 2001; Parke Coltrane et al., in press).

Reliance on nonexperimental strategies may be insufficient to address the important issue of direction of effects in work on the impact of fathers on children and families (Parke, 2000). Experimental strategies have been underutilized in studies of fathers. By experimental modification of either the type of paternal behavior or level of father involvement, firmer conclusions concerning the direct causative role that fathers play in modifying their children's and their wives development will be possible. Intervention studies (e.g., Fagan and Hawkins, 2000; Parke et al., 1980) aimed at modifying fathering behavior provide models for this type of work, and, if these studies are extended to include measures of child, mother, and father development, they could provide evidence of the impact of changes in fathering behavior on developmental outcomes. Moreover, these experimentally based interventions have clear policy implications by exploring the degree of plasticity of fathering behavior. Finally, these interventions can serve as a vehicle for evaluation of alternative theoretical views of fatherhood (Parke, 2000).

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