Fathers of children in public preschool programs [electronic resource]: a study of school involvement and satisfaction

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Noggle, Amy Kappel
Lieber, Joan
In this quantitative study, I examined the involvement levels of fathers of children attending public preschool programs using the Family Involvement Questionnaire; I also examined fathers' satisfaction with school contact and involvement experiences using the Parent Satisfaction with Educational Experiences scale. Additionally, I investigated public preschool programs' efforts to involve fathers in school using modified versions of the family involvement and parent satisfaction measures. The final purpose of this study was to determine which demographic and child characteristics, if any, influence father involvement levels in school. Fifty-two biological fathers rated their own involvement in activities at their children's schools, and they rated their own satisfaction with school contact and involvement experiences. Two public preschool administrators answered questions about what types of involvement opportunities are offered to fathers. Participating fathers' children were enrolled in one of the three following public preschool programs: Head Start, Prekindergarten (PreK), or Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). Fathers of children with disabilities, as well as fathers of children without disabilities, were included in this study. As predicted, fathers of children in Head Start volunteered at school more frequently than fathers of children in PreK or ECSE programs. However, contrary to the original hypothesis, fathers of children with disabilities were more involved in school activities compared to fathers of children without disabilities. Fathers of children with disabilities were equally satisfied with school contact and involvement compared to fathers of children without disabilities with the exception of one item on the satisfaction measure; fathers of children with disabilities were more satisfied with their contact with other parents outside of school. Examination of the predictive value of fathers' income levels, child's gender, child's disability status, schools' efforts to involve fathers, and satisfaction on fathers' involvement levels resulted in only one significant finding. Lower income predicted higher levels of volunteerism in school. Correlational analyses revealed a number of significant positive relationships between items on the involvement and satisfaction measures. However, more research is necessary to establish causal relationships between satisfaction and involvement. Additionally, researchers, teachers and policy makers need to carefully examine the ways in which fathers are currently involved in public preschool programs and make programmatic changes, as necessary. Finally, low-income fathers of children with disabilities face more adversity than either low-income fathers or fathers of children with disabilities; thus, it is very possible that they need to be supported differently. More research is needed to find out what these fathers need to support their children and to remain involved in their children's lives.