Journal Publishes Study Coauthored by MDRC Researchers on Innovative Video Observation Study of Father-Child Interactions

Children and Youth Services Review has just published an article, “Improvements in Father-Child Interactions: Video Observations from the Just Beginning Study,” by Kristen Harknett of the University of California, San Francisco, and MDRC’s Patrizia Mancini and Virginia Knox. The article is part of the Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) Evaluation, supported by the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Just Beginning (JB) intervention—a one-on-one parenting program that incorporates instructional videos and father-child play activities—aims to improve the quality of interactions between fathers with low incomes and their young children. For the B3 evaluation, the JB intervention was implemented at three Responsible Fatherhood program sites and fathers participated in up to five sessions of the Just Beginning program. The paper reports on results from videotaped father-child interactions over the course of the JB program at one of the three sites: People for People, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The paper reports on how father-child interactions evolved over the course of the intervention for all fathers, and whether the changes in the father-child interactions across JB sessions differed for resident fathers and fathers who lived apart from their focal children. The study uses growth curve models to estimate patterns of change across the five sessions in the quality of the father-child interactions, drawing on 152 video observations from 53 father-child dyads.

The authors find that fathers’ positive regard toward their children increased across JB sessions but find no statistically significant changes in other indicators of fathers’ positive parenting behaviors or in fathers’ negative parenting behaviors. Improvements in positive parenting behaviors appeared to be larger and more widespread for nonresident fathers than they were for fathers who lived with their focal children.