National Institutes of Health
Activities in Support of the Fatherhood Initiative
In an effort to improve the Federal Government's support of fatherhood and
to help strengthen families, the National
Institutes of Health has undertaken the following activities within FY
Grants, Inter-Agency Agreements, and Programmatic Activities:
The National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development (NICHD) has identified male parenting, male fertility
related behavior and non-marital childbearing as priority areas for the Institute
in recent years and is currently supporting a variety of research projects
on these topics.
The NICHD is studying the effect on parents of raising a child with developmental
disabilities (DD) and on how living with a DD adult child affects the
psychological well-being of fathers, compared to mothers. The NICHD is also
tracking the adjustment of families who knowingly adopted children with DD,
compared to families with similar children by birth, to study the influence
of psychological parental, family and child variables in predicting long-term
adjustment, and transition of the child into adulthood.
The NICHD is supporting several studies of children with mental retardation
(MR) and their families. One study is looking at the transition from late
adolescence into young adulthood, and the effect of this transition on family
well-being. The NICHD-supported researchers are also studying the mutual
influences between families and their children with mental retardation (MR)
during adolescence and early adulthood. They will evaluate how social and
adaptive functioning influences early family experiences, how raising a child
with MR influences the personal well-being of parents over time, and how
families with a mentally retarded child adapt, overall, over the life course.
The NICHD is examining how fathers affect the early development of their
children in contemporary American society. Researchers will examine how father
involvement differs by family structure, factors affecting a father's involvement
behavior, and how children's psychological and cognitive well-being relates
to the father's attitudes and involvement behavior.
The NICHD is also supporting research on how the process by which children
become independent affects their relationships with their mother and father.
Researchers will interview participants from the National Survey of Families
and Households. The results will provide a more comprehensive perspective
on young adult development.
The NICHD, in collaboration with the National Center of Health Statistics
(NCHS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), are determining national
estimates for key indicators related to fertility, family planning, union
formation, HIV prevention, and reproductive health for women. Researchers
are collecting data on contraceptive practices, fertility, and other background
factors among women 15-44 years of age. A male sample has now been added
to include information related to male fertility, sexual behavior and
contraceptive use, HIV and STD prevention, and family formation, as well
as socio-demographic information.
NICHD, along with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and
the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), is working on the Early Childhood
Longitudinal Study - Year 2000 Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). The ECLS-B is the first
U.S. study to track the health, development, care and education of a nationally
representative sample of children from infancy to the time they enter school.
Researchers are now collecting information on fathers, which is a newly added
component, to examine the role of resident fathers. This will enable researchers
to have a more comprehensive view of how the children's home environment,
early care and education affect their growth.
The NICHD is supporting an initiative headed by the NIH Office of Behavioral
and Social Sciences Research entitled "Research on the Development of
Interventions for Youth Violence." The initiative encourages innovative research
for youth violence prevention, treatment, intervention methods and maintenance
of behavior change. Research topics may include intervention methods that
include family support systems, levels of parental supervision, and the dynamics
of the parent-child relationship.
Fathers who abuse drugs not only affect their own behaviors and perceptions
but also those of his family. The National
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supports research investigating drug abuse
and its effects on fatherhood.
The NIDA supports research to increase our understanding of behavior, aggression
and violence within inner-city African-American families when one or more
family members use and/or sell crack or other drugs, and how household
organization supports the transmission of violence, drug abuse, and HIV risk
behavior across generations
The National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH) supports research to better understand and assess mental health in
families. A cluster of new grants have expanded the NIMH portfolio related
to fatherhood. These studies examine how family relationships are affected
by the mental health of fathers, mothers and in turn their children.
Research has established that developmental delays occur in infants of depressed
mothers. NIMH-supported investigators now are exploring depression and the
role of fathers and the marital relationship on the development and well-being
of children and adolescents. Studies also are examining the relation between
decreases in parental depression and changes in children's functioning and
whether the style of family interaction has an impact on adolescent depression.
The information will be used to design preventive interventions to reduce
the deleterious effects of parental depression on children.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism (NIAAA) funds numerous studies on the role of family in
the development and prevention of alcohol disorders among children and
adolescents. Highlights of recent NIAAA studies specific to fatherhood appear
Much of the Institute's family-based research is conducted under the auspices
of the Division of Biometry and Epidemiology and the Division of Clinical
and Prevention Research. Recent findings are highlighted below.
Recent data show that people who began drinking at age 15 were four times
more likely to become alcoholic than were people who began at age 21,
underscoring the importance of preventing drinking during the adolescent
years. Fathers and mothers play a crucial role in preventing their children
from developing alcohol problems during this vulnerable period of life.
Another study addresses gender issues. Researchers are examining the association
between severity of alcohol dependence and psychopathology in female offspring
of alcoholic fathers.
The Institute's Division of Clinical and Prevention Research conducts studies
involving alcohol's effects on children, from the fetal stage through
adolescence. One of the studies, for example, focuses on server training
and on bars as settings for interventions to prevent drinking by pregnant
women. Men (i.e., potential fathers) as well as women will be the recipients
of pamphlets, warnings, and other messages that are prepared for distribution
in these bar settings.
A comprehensive community-based trial of interventions to prevent fetal alcohol
syndrome (FAS) and other alcohol-related birth defects among Native Americans
is being conducted among four Plains Indian tribes, with two other Indian
communities serving as controls. The prevention strategies include universal
interventions aimed at everyone in these communities, including fathers and
potential fathers, as well as selected and indicated strategies aimed at
higher-risk groups. Husbands and male partners of women who drink to excess
are also targeted with special interventions to gain their assistance in
reducing the prevalence of drinking by pregnant women.
Fathers figure predominantly in other family-oriented research sponsored
by the NIAAA's Division of Biometry and Epidemiology.
One study is examining linkages between family factors and risk factors for
drinking among youth, and will interview biological fathers regardless of
whether or not they reside in the child's household, as well as the mother's
Another study is a behavioral-genetic investigation of the role of siblings
in adolescent alcohol use and abuse. Although the focus of the study is on
siblings, information about parent attitudes and expectancies and parent-child
and other family relationships will be collected and evaluated.
In another study, researchers are examining risk factors among children 8
to 18 years old in African American families, to identify familial,
environmental, and individual risk factors, as well as protective indices,
and how these factors interact in the development of alcoholism in this
A longitudinal study, in place since 1978, focuses on understanding interactions
that characterize families with an alcoholic member.
Family-oriented studies that include fathers also are well represented in
the Division of Clinical and Prevention Research portfolio.
Preliminary results from an intervention delivered in the homes of parents
of fifth- grade students indicate that these children were less likely than
others to use or misuse alcohol over time, if they had not already started
An intensive family-intervention program of parents and their sixth-grade
children, supported by the NIMH, was found to significantly delay drinking
onset 2 years later. The NIAAA is currently supporting an adaptation and
evaluation of this program for rural African American families. This intervention
was based on an intervention called the Strengthening Families Program.
A new study will test a version of the Strengthening Families Program for
families in two ethnically diverse urban populations, where one or both parents
are in treatment for alcohol abuse.
An ongoing media-based intervention to prevent underage drinking will include
radio and TV messages designed specifically for parents of preteens and early
adolescents. The effectiveness of these messages will be evaluated through
surveys of parents and youth.
The Institute is sponsoring testing of a manual for parents, to help them
prevent drunk driving by their high school-age children.
A new study is developing and testing two interventions for high-risk youth
that will be delivered through community centers. Half of the community agencies
will also provide parents with eight sessions on effective parenting practices
and prevention of risky behaviors by children.
NIAAA also funds several studies that examine the role of alcohol in risky
sexual behavior among adolescents. These studies not only promote prevention
of HIV transmission in this age group, but also promote prevention of unplanned
pregnancy and fatherhood.
Last year the NICHD co-sponsored a conference entitled "Parenting
and the Child's World: Multiple Influences on Intellectual and Social-Emotional
Development." This conference assessed the state of funding and
research into parenting, and thus, gave rise to recommendations for future
research directions. Also as a result of this conference, the NICHD is producing
a book on Parenting and the Child's World that is currently under final revision.
In addition, a pamphlet is being prepared on Parenting for parents, which
focuses on how parents matter.
In October 1999, researchers met at the "Workshop on Youth Violence
Interventions" to assess the state of the research and research
needs in the area of youth violence interventions. The ultimate goal will
be to develop research priorities for the area of youth violence intervention
and prevention efforts, which includes among other issues family dynamics.
Recently in March 2000, researchers at the "Conflict and Cooperation
in Families" conference discussed the problem of understanding how
families cooperate and manage conflict regarding the allocation of household
resources, parenting and a variety of other roles in family matters.
Researchers at the "Developing a Daddy Survey (DADS) Meeting,"
held in March 2000, worked to coordinate measures that examine father involvement
across three national studies: Early Head Start, Fragile Families, and the
Early childhood Longitudinal Survey - Birth Cohort. The focus of the meeting
was father involvement with young children (aged 3-5 years). In addition,
researchers began developing methodologies work to clarify the validity and
reliability of these measures.
The NICHD will hold the "2000 Add Health Users Workshop"
from August 1-2, 2000. The purpose is to provide learning and networking
opportunities for investigators (especially new investigators) who are using
the Add Health data or are interested in using it. The Add Health data include
measures of an adolescent's relationship with their fathers and measures
of transitions to parenthood during the late teens and early twenties.
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for policy. Presentation to the Ohio Task Force on Family Law and Children,
Columbus, January 2000.
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to the 24th Annual Colorado Conference on Children and Divorce, Denver, April
Lamb, M. E. Why are fathers important? Keynote address to the Delaware
Governor's Conference on Fatherhood, Dover, Delaware, June 2000.
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Lamb, M. E. Fatherhood in the twenty-first century. Child
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investment strategies among Aka foragers, Ngandu farmers, and Euro-American
urban-industrialists. In L. Cronk, N. Chagnon, & W. Irons (Eds.),
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appropriate custody and access decisions for young children. Family
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relationships: Development in the context of the family. In M. H. Bornstein
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Families. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999.
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Marsiglio, W., Amato, P., Day, R. D., & Lamb, M. E. Scholarship on fatherhood
in the 1990s and beyond: Past impressions, future prospects. Journal
of Marriage and the Family, in press.
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