Title: Changes in divorcing men's perceptions of fathering during the transition from live-in father to non-residential father
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Title: Changes in divorcing men's perceptions of fathering during the transition from live-in father to non-residential father
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Language: English
Creator: Farley, William Thomas
Copyright Date: 2005
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I must first and foremost thank the men who were

willing to participate in this study. Without their

cooperation and willingness to put their thoughts and

feelings on the line there would be no study.

I must also thank my committee members for their time

and effort. First, I thank my supervisory committee

chairperson Dr.Amatea. She continually showed an amazing

ability to think broadly and divergently while still

attending to detail. I can not thank her enough for her

assistance in getting me through this process. Her

combination of patience and pushing were a balancing act

the likes of which would be hard to match. I also thank

Dr.Doan. She offered input for the design of this study

that was invaluable in making this a manageable project.

She provided a comfort level during the more stressful

times. I only can say it was my loss that I did not make

better use of her talents. Dr. Marsiglio provided the

guidance that helped my knowledge and awareness of

fathering and fatherhood issues grow exponentially. I

never left his office without something new to ponder. As

with Dr. Doan, I regret not having more fully used his

expertise. In thanking Dr. Sherrard, sometimes less is

more. He offered his encouragement and support in a quiet

but consistent manner that helped me through this in ways I

can not explain. I hope to see him at Ivey's soon. I

would also like to thank Dr. Sally Hutchinson. Her

enthusiasm for grounded theory research inspired me to

drive to Jacksonville for 14 weeks when I could have

comfortably sat in a classroom down in the Health Center.

Thanks are also in order for Ms. Candy Spires. Her help in

registration and other areas saved me many times, both in

headaches and dollars.

I would also thank my peer debriefers, Sherry Kitchens

and Dr. Marshall Knudson. Their availability and

willingness to help me sort through the difficult issues

that came up was greatly appreciated.

Thanks also go to two long-time friends, Marty Huegel

and Claudia Senesac. Marty's cynicism was inspiring in a

most peculiar way. Claudia's shared experiences as she

went through this same process served to remind me I was

not alone.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my wife

Charlene. She was there when this started, still agreed to

marry me half-way through the process, and continued to

support and encourage me as I dragged this out to nearly a

decade long ordeal. I love her all the more.




A B S T R A C T ........................................................................................................................v i i


1 IN TRO DUCT ION............................................................. ...................................... 1
Statement of the Problem .................................................................. 2
Significance of the Study.................................... ..................... 3
Primary Research Question...................... ................. ............ 6
Research Paradigm................................................. ...................................... 8
Methodological Framework...................... ......................... ........ 14
D e f i n i t i o n s ......................................................................................................... 1 6

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................... .................................. 18
Father Involvement in Parenting ...................................... 19
Impact of Divorce on Fathers ............. ............................ 28
Impact of Divorce on Children ................................................... 31
Value of Qualitative Research............................................ 36
Summary of Key Findings ....................... .................................. 38

3 M E T H O DO L O G Y ......................................................................................................... 4 0
Research Participants........................................................................... 41
Data Collection Procedures .................. ................................. 48
Sensitizing Concepts ............................ ............... ................. 54
D a t a A n a l y s i s................................................................................................... 5 7
M e m o i n g ..................................................................................................................... 6 0
Protection of Participants ................. .............................. 61
Reliability and Validity/Trustworthiness .................. 62
R e se a r ch e r B ia s............................................................................................. 64
Su m m a r y ....................................................................................................................... 7 0

4 FIN D IN G S.................................................................................................................. 7 1
Category Identification.................................................................. 74
Sep a r at ion ...................................................................................................... 7 7
Cop ing Strategie s................................................................................. 95
General Findings....................................................................................1.03
Summ a ry..................................................................................................................... 11 0

5 D ISCU SS ION ...................................................................................................... 1 12
SUMMARY of FINDINGS ............................ ......................................... 112
RESEARCHER BIAS....................................................................................... 115
OB SERVA TION S ................................................................................................ 118
LIMITATIONS of the STUDY .......................... .................................123
APPLICATION of RESULTS ....................... ...........................................127
IMPLICATIONS for FUTURE RESEARCH..........................................131


A CON SEN T FORM............................................................................................. 13 6

B RECRUIT LETTER ........................... ...................................... 139

C DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONNAIRE.................................................... 130

D INTERVIEW QUESTIONS........................... .............................................. 42

E PHOTO INSTRUCTIONS.......................... ............................................145

F Institutional Review Board ................................................. 146

R E FE R EN CE S ............................................................................................................1 4 9

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................................................159

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



William T. Farley

August 2005

Chairperson: Ellen Amatea
Major Department: Counselor Education

Divorce occurs in approximately 50% of families in

this country. Fathers' involvement with their children

after divorce has been shown to potentially attenuate the

impact of divorce on children. Studies of divorced fathers

have identified specific factors impacting their

involvement with their children. However, few studies to

date have explored how men's thinking about their

involvement with their children can change when faced with

the inevitable prospect of divorce. My study explored how

divorced fathers' thought about their involvement with

their children early in the divorce process, specifically

between filing the petition and final judgment.

Two criteria were required for inclusion in this

study. The men had to have papers filed with the court

petitioning for divorce, with no final judgment yet made.

The men also had to have at least one child between the

ages of 5 and 12. Twelve men participated in this study.

Ten of the participants were interviewed two times. After

the first interview, the men were given a disposable camera

to take pictures of what fathering meant to them. The

second interview included a discussion of these pictures.

Analysis of the data using principles of grounded

theory methodology generated two primary categories,

labeled separation and coping strategies. Separation was

defined as the physical and psychological condition that

resulted from these men's leaving the residence of their

children on initiation of the divorce process. Subcategories

included factors contributing to the separation and the

consequences of the separation on the fathers. Factors

contributing to the separation were a) the divorce proper,

b) the role of the mother, and c) the role of the court.

Effects of the separation on the father included the

properties of a) missing the children, b) loss of

influence, c) displacement, and d) emotionality.

Coping strategies defined those behaviors and thoughts

that men used to lessen the impact of the separation. Four

properties contributed to the formation of this category:

a) determination, b) contact, c) justification, and d)


Implications of these results for practice and policy

included counseling with divorced fathers, structure and

content of parenting/divorce education classes, and shaping

public policy.


Approximately 50% of marriages now end in divorce and

nearly half of these divorces involve children (Fields,

2000). It has also been reported that up to half of the

children who have experienced the divorce of their parents

have had no contact with their father within the past year,

and of those who do have contact, only 1 of 6 has contact

on a weekly basis (Furstenberg & Nord, 1985). More

recently, King (1994) reported that approximately 31% of

fathers eventually had no contact with their children after

divorce, while Braver (1998) reported that 18 to 25% of men

had no contact within 2 to 3 years after divorce.

The implications of these statistics are that a large

portion of the population of this country will experience

the disruption of their family as they once knew it to be,

and a large number of children will experience the loss of

(or a significant change in) their relationship with their

fathers. This family disruption brings with it the

possible experience of pain and loss that can accompany


My study was designed to understand more fully how

this family disruption is experienced by fathers and how

fathers rethink and redefine their role as fathers during

divorce proceedings.

Statement of the Problem

Numerous authors have reported that men often

experience adjustment problems after divorce. These

problems can take the form of depression, loss of a sense

of self, loneliness, or anxiety, to name but a few (Stone,

2001; Lehr & MacMillan, 2001; Hetherington & Tryon, 1989).

Although the literature describing the impact of divorce on

children varies greatly, there are strong indications that

children of divorce are at risk for adjustment problems.

Some examples of these problems are decreased academic

performance, behavioral problems, and poor self-concept or

sense of competence (Dreman & Shemi, 2004; Amato, 2001,

2000, 1993; Booth & Amato, 2001; Whiteside & Becker, 2000;

Shapiro & Lambert, 1999; Amato & Gilbreth, 1999; Amato &

Keith, 1991; Kelly, 1998; King, 1994).

What has also been suggested in the literature is that

men's involvement with their children tends to decrease

over time after a divorce, particularly after the first

year of separation from the children (King & Heard, 1999,

Kruk, 1991). A number of possible explanations for this

phenomenon have been posited, including men's sense of

disenfranchisement from the family, mothers directly or

indirectly restricting fathers' access to the children, the

remarriage of one or both parents, and attempts to reduce

conflict with the mother by limiting contact with the

former spouse (King & Heard, 1999; Cooksey & Craig, 1998;

Arendell, 1995). What is lacking in these and other

possible explanations regarding decreased involvement is a

better understanding of how men's perceptions of fathering

might change as they make the transition from a live-in,

bicustodial father to a noncustodial, nonresidential

father; and how these shifting perspectives inform their

fathering involvement. My study explored the process by

which men renegotiate and redefine their multiple roles as

fathers during the early stage of this family transition.

Significance of Study

My study provided an opportunity to better understand

how men's perceptions of fathering change as a result of

the divorce process. Inherent in my study was the

assumption that perceptions of fathering would change.

This assumption was based on previous findings by Arendell

(1995), Kruk (1991), and Riessman (1990) who conducted

extensive qualitative studies with fathers. Their results

indicated that men's fathering behavior changes as a result

of the divorce process. Increased understanding of how

men's thinking about and meanings of fathering shift during

the divorce process, and thus how their behaviors as

fathers change, could lead to more effective interventions

with fathers. The need for this increased understanding is

well documented (Frieman, 2003a). Such interventions could

contribute to greater personal adjustment for fathers and

increased positive involvement of fathers with their

children after a divorce has occurred.

Insights gained from this study could be useful in

three areas: a) counseling work with men after divorce, b)

parenting classes or classes designed for divorcing parents

with minor children, and c) with public-policy development.

The first area is the counseling of men who may have

difficulty adjusting to the changes in their lives as a

result of their divorces. Numerous studies show that

nonresidential fathers often experience emotional and/or

psychological difficulties following divorce (Frieman,

2003b; Lehr & MacMillan, 2001; Stone, 2001). Increased

understanding would offer more possible directions for

conversation in counseling work.

The second area where this study might prove useful is

in the structure and design of divorce or parenting

classes. Two factors have been identified that lessen the


negative impact divorce can have on children: a more

cooperative relationship between the parents, and continued

involvement with the child, or children, by both parents

(Hetherington & Kelly, 2002; Pruett & Pruett, 1998;

Arendell, 1995; Ahrons, 1994). Several court jurisdictions

nationwide have implemented mandatory parenting or divorce

education classes before granting a divorce to couples with

minor children, most with the goal of improving the co-

parental relationship and ensuring continued involvement by

both parents.

Divorce classes currently offered acknowledge a change

in relationship as a result of divorce. These classes have

a primary goal of helping parents and children cope with

divorce (Geasler and Blaisure, 1998; Salem, Shepard &

Schlissel, 1996). Effectiveness of such classes varies.

Reasons for this variation include level of conflict

between the parents, timing of attendance in relation to

the divorce, and structure and content of the classes

(Douglas, 2004, Arbuthnot & Gordon, 1996; Gleasner &

Blaisure, 1998). Structure and content of the classes is

where knowledge gainedfrom my study could prove helpful.

As noted above, content and teaching strategies have been

shown to impact the effectiveness of such classes.

Increased knowledge gained from this study could prove

useful in designing or redesigning classes in ways that

might help men's adjustment after divorce, improve men's

approach to the co-parenting relationship, and increase

men's positive involvement with their children following


The third area is public policy. Policy and law

regarding divorce should stem from a framework that (to the

greatest degree possible) frees all family members of

bitterness, anger, and anxiety that can result from the

process of divorce. Such a framework can be better

constructed only with a better understanding of how the

dissolution process affects all parties involved. My study

could contribute a better understanding of how men reflect

on and react to the dissolution of their marriage, and how

this informs their fathering role.

Primary Research Question

My study addressed the question "How do divorcing

men's perceptions of fathering change during the transition

from live-in, bi-custodial father; to noncustodial,

nonresidential father?" I narrowed the transition period

to that time between filing a petition for divorce and the

final judgment dissolving the marriage. Although this same

question could also be addressed in regard to mothers, a

decision was made to limit the study to examining fathers'

experiences for two reasons. First, fathers are more

likely to be in the non-residential role. Fewer than 15%

of divorced fathers have primary residential custody of

their children (Fields, 2000). Second, I chose fathers

because I assume that we know less about fathers than about

mothers. Lupton and Barclay (1997) report that

psychological research literature regarding mothers and

motherhood outnumbered similar works on fathers and

fatherhood by a ratio of 4 to 1. Their review of the

sociological literature found the margin of difference to

be 13 to 1. Despite a recent trend toward more research on

fatherhood (e.g., from 2001 through 2004, four issues of

the Journal of Marriage and the Family had articles under a

subsection titled "Fatherhood"), the amount of research

literature on fatherhood remains limited. According to

Catlett and McKenry (2004), research is particularly needed

that would add to the understanding of the "...understudied

context of men in divorce transition..." (p. 167). My study

would contribute to that understanding, particularly

focusing on the period of transition from the time the

divorce petition has been filed but prior to a final

judgment by the court.

Research Paradigm

Symbolic interactionism was chosen as the theoretical

framework for my study. This choice was based on the idea

that symbolic interactionism offers a "...theory about

human behavior and an approach to inquiry about human

conduct...." (Annells, 1996, p380). It is a framework

chosen by other authors (Marsiglio, 2004; Arendell, 1995)

seeking to highlight the cognitive aspects of the

phenomenon being studied.

This framework fits well with my personal approach to

therapy, which is grounded in critical and post-structural

modes of discourse that reflect post-modern thinking. This

complement of theoretical framework and practice was

important, since the intent of my study was to begin

generating a substantive theory about

noncustodial/nonresidential fathers' experiences that would

offer alternative approaches to counseling or psycho-

education for fathers who are going through the divorce

process. I briefly address how this fit occurs after

summarizing symbolic interactionism. I then discuss how

symbolic interactionism, as an approach to inquiry fits

with grounded theory (my choice of research methodology).

Symbolic Interactionism

The term symbolic interactionism was originated by

Herbert Blumer (1969), who expanded the ideas of George

Herbert Mead. Blumer's theory of symbolic interactionism is

based on three premises. First, people respond to things

(e.g., people, objects, concepts) according to the meanings

the things have for them. Second, the meanings people

attach to things are the result of social interactions with

other people. Third, how a person applies these meanings

is the result of a process of interpretation.

Blumer further suggests there are two parts to this

interpretation process. Initially, a person considers

which of the targets of the action have meaning for

her/him. This amounts to an internalized discussion in

which the person is interacting with herself/himself. The

next step is the handling of meanings as a result of these

internalized social processes (discussions), in which the

person considers the meaning in the context of the current

situation and possible action to be taken. This process of

interpretation is not the automatic use of meanings

previously established, but instead a "...formative process

in which meanings are used and revised as instruments for

the guidance and formation of action" (Blumer, 1969, p.5).

It is important to recognize that meanings influence action

through a process of self-interaction. This makes the

person a factor in an action as opposed to an object in a

cause-and-effect relationship.

In contrast, the current research literature on

fatherhood is based mainly on examples of "cause and

effect" or linear research paradigms. The extensive review

by Pleck (in Lamb, 1997), reflects the preponderance of

this approach. Research based on the ideas of symbolic

interactionism reflects the view that given factors may

influence or inform action, but that these factors do not

produce action. Action is instead the result of an

interaction (of factors) and interpretation by the


Blumer (1969) suggested that society consists of

people engaging in action, and/or interaction. The result

of these social interactions is what we refer to as

culture. This is contrary to the idea that culture is the

determining factor in how interactions occur. Placing

social interactions (including self-interactions) above

culture or other factors in determining action allows a

role for the self in these processes.

The self in these instances is reflective of the self

envisioned by Mead (Blumer, 1969), and is a process, as

opposed to a static or inherent structure in one's

consciousness. This self is a main player in Blumer's

concept of the nature of human action. He believes that a

person (self), when confronted by a situation, will

interpret the situation before he or she acts. Again, this

is contrary to the idea of the person just responding to

the situation, as implied in much of the current research

on fathering. This should not be construed as an isolated

decision in meaning-making and resulting action. Referring

back to Blumer's ideas, in any given situation the

person/self makes interpretations based on meanings that

are a result of interactions and interpretations

accumulated over his/her lifetime, with the relevance of

this history determined by the current situation.

Applying these theoretical assumptions (Blumer's three

basic premises) to my study further clarifies these ideas.

The first premise suggests that men will approach divorce

and fathering after divorce with preconceived notions based

on the meanings they individually attribute to concepts

such as divorce, visitation, and absent or

noncustodial/nonresidential fathering. These meanings will

be a contributing influence on how men act as fathers

through the transition period and beyond.

The second premise suggests that these meanings are

the result of interactions with others, over the course of

one's life; such as being fathered and/or providing

fathering. Previous interactions will likely include those

among persons such as a man's own father, the mother of

their children, and his peers. Other prior interactions

could include those at religious institutions, schools, or

the workplace. Further, fathers have ongoing interactions

with various people or institutions that will continue to

influence their constructions of meaning. These current

interactions could include those with the former partner,

the children, attorneys, the courts, peers, and possibly

divorce-class personnel and participants. Any of these

past and present interactions can affect the meanings men

attach to fathering and fathering behaviors.

The third premise of symbolic interactionism suggests

that men will engage in an internal dialogue that considers

the implications of ongoing interactions and incorporates

meanings derived from previous interactions. The results

of this internal dialogue or self-interaction will

determine how fathers decide to act (i.e., how fathering

should be post divorce) as they make the transition in

parenting status.

Symbolic interactionism presents life as a dynamic,

ever-changing phenomenon. The implications are that

individuals and society are perpetually in a state of

either potential or actual change by virtue of ongoing

interactions, with the resultant potential for any of these

interactions to change meanings for persons or groups of

persons. Blumer's discussion of group life and the nature

of social interaction bring to mind Berger and Luckman's

ideas of the changeability of social reality (1967).

Berger and Luckman discussed the process of reification as

a group dynamic of accepting something as reality.

Similarly, Blumer might say if the interactions or

interpretations of enough persons lead to group 'action'

this becomes the reality of that group of people (their

culture or society). However, Berger and Luckman's

discussion allows for a change in reality (a new

reification) when people's thinking shifts in new

directions. Blumer clearly shares this view of reality as

a shifting phenomenon.

This dynamic shifting reality fits well with my

narrative, post-modern approach to therapy; and with my

beliefs of how people can change their behaviors, and their

lives, as a result of shifting their perceptions of their

life situations. Narrative therapists value the

individual's contributions to problem definition and the

generation of solutions (i.e., the role of the self in

symbolic interactionism). Through open discourse with

clients, narrative therapies seek to explore alternative

stories with people, thus opening the possibility of new

meanings. The intent is to help people deconstruct

meanings or stories that influence their lives and assist

in creating alternative meanings or stories that can change

how they live their lives (Anderson, 1997; Freedman &

Combs, 1996; Eron & Lund, 1996; White & Epston, 1990).

Increased understanding of how men create or recreate their

stories of fathering during the divorce process could help

them shift their perspectives in ways that could benefit

them and their children.

Methodological Framework

My study was qualitative in nature, and was based on

grounded theory strategies. Grounded theory methodology

was originally proposed by Glaser and Strauss (1967); and

further clarified by Glaser (1978), and Strauss and Corbin

(1990). This method is intended to discover theory through

systematic analysis of collected data. Grounded theory

fits well with symbolic interactionism, the theoretical

paradigm for this study. Blumer (1969 referred to symbolic

interaction as an "empirical social science...designed to

yield verifiable knowledge of human group life and human

conduct" (p.21). Empirical social scienceuses,

"...naturalistic study..." [that] "..respects and stays

close to the empirical domain which it intends to explore"

(p.46). This thinking is echoed by Hutchinson when

describing grounded theory as research that "...goes beyond

existent theories and preconceived conceptual frameworks in

search of new understandings of social processes in natural

settings" (Hutchinson, in Sherman and Webb, 1988, p.123).

Glaser and Strauss believed that generating theory

that is grounded in data would be best suited to practical

application. They identified five interrelated jobs of

theory: a) to enable prediction and explanation of

behavior; b) to be useful in theoretical advance in

sociology; c) to be usable in practical applications--

prediction and explanation should be able to give the

practitioner understanding and some control of

situations; d) to provide a perspective on behavior--a

stance to be taken toward data; and e) to guide and provide

a style for research on particular areas of behavior

(Glaser and Straus 1967)

In my study I was most interested in the prediction

and explanation of behavior, and how it may have practical

application in the structure and process of working with

men experiencing a divorce. If we can better predict how

men interpret their changing roles as a father and respond

to these changes, and better explain post-divorce behaviors

regarding men's involvement with their children, we can

develop strategies that would enable teachers, counselors,

and other stakeholders to promote or enhance parental

cooperation and involvement with children in bi-custodial

parental arrangements. To this end, developing a theory

grounded in data gathered from men who are experiencing the

early stage of divorce (i.e., men who are processing the

divorce experience and adjusting to their changed roles as

a father) was the purpose of this study.


Fathering: In this study fathering referred to the

activities that are a part of men's involvement with their

biological children. This definition was not intended to

elevate the status of biological fathers in comparison to

step-fathers or men who are in the fathering role as a

result of co-habiting relationships. The definition merely

reflects the participants in the study (i.e., men currently

experiencing a divorce) and efforts to keep the sample pool


Involvement: This term referred to the interactions

and activities, both physical and mental, that men have

with their children. It was based on the definitions of

involvement posited by Lamb et al. (1985), and Palkovitz

(1997). Palkovitz's expanded definition of involvement

specifically included cognitive and affective domains in

addition to a behavioral domain. This was important in

this study because changes in thinking and feeling were

what I was attempting to identify. A more in-depth

discussion of involvement is given in the "Father

Involvement in Parenting" section of Chapter 2.

Process: Process has been defined as a "systematic

series of actions directed to some end" (Webster, 1996).

In my study, the "series of actions" is the thinking,

reflecting, modifying, renegotiating and redefining

encompassed in men's changing meanings of fathering during

the early stage of the divorce process. Data were analyzed

with sensitivity to cognitive and behavioral actions.

Process in my study also included the multiple aspects of

men's relationships to their children, including related

processes such as interactions with the birth mother or

grandparents. ("Basic Social Process" in Chapter 3 further

discusses process.)


The purpose of this study was to explore the way men

reflect on and re-think their roles as fathers during the

divorce process. This study was based on two assumptions.

First, it was assumed that when men experiencing divorce

are faced with the prospect of no longer living with their

children on a full time basis, the way they think about

fathering and the meanings they attribute to fatherhood

change. Second, since research has demonstrated that

fathers' post-divorce adjustment and involvement can impact

children's adjustment to divorce, it was assumed that

increased understanding of the changes in men's thinking

would have relevance to men undergoing this family

transition, and to their children. This increased

understanding of fathers' thinking could be useful to

professionals wishing to intervene to lessen the negative

impact of divorce on fathers and their children.

Therefore, this review focused on four bodies of

literature. The first area is the literature on fathers'

involvement in childrearing. This includes a general

summary of the research literature on the nature of

father's involvement in childrearing. The second area of

literature reviewed concerns the impact of divorce on

fathers. In this section, recent literature addressing

both personal adjustment of fathers and fathers'

involvement with their children post divorce was examined.

The third area focuses on the literature describing the

impact of divorce on children. Literature describing the

impact of fathers' involvement on children's adjustment to

divorce will also be reviewed in this section. Literature

supporting the selection of a qualitative methodology used

in this study is the final area reviewed.

Father Involvement in Parenting

A frequent concept used to define or measure

fatherhood is involvement. Historically involvement has

been measured predominantly by time studies. These studies

usually requested that parents (mostly the mothers)

estimate the time fathers spend interacting with children

(Hofferth et al, 2003; Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004; Pleck,

1997). In an effort to broaden the parameters of

involvement, Lamb, Pleck, Charnov & Levine (1985)

identified three components that define involvement: a)

engagement; b) accessibility; and c) responsibility.

Engagement is defined as those activities or times when the

parent is interacting with a child in a direct manner.

Accessibility is that time when the parent is available to

the child, such as being in one room while the child plays

in the same or an adjacent room. Responsibility is more

difficult to define. It generally refers to the parent

being accountable for the child's welfare. This type of

involvement would include behaviors such as the making and

keeping of doctors' appointments, providing clothing, and

school/education arrangements and activities. McBride

(1989), sums up responsibility as an awareness of the

child's various social, emotional, cognitive and physical

needs, and the ability to take steps necessary to help meet

those needs.

Palkovitz (1997) takes an even more expansive view of

involvement. He offered his model to help combat the

deficit perspective of fatherhood (Hawkins & Dollahite,

1997). He begins by proposing six misconceptions about

involvement: a) more is better; b) involvement requires

proximity; c) involvement can always be observed or

counted; d) involvement levels are static and therefore

concurrently and prospectively predictive; e) patterns of

involvement should look the same across culture, subculture

or social class; and f) women are more involved with

children than men.

Palkovitz suggests that the first of these

misconceptions does not take into account women's possible

reactions to increased men's involvement, or in what way a

father is involved (e.g., an abusive father). Nor does it

consider the child's developmental issues. The second and

third misconceptions limit involvement to behaviors only.

Palkovitz's model addresses these shortcomings by viewing

involvement as having three domains; cognitive, affective

and behavioral. Although the idea of a cognitive and

affective component to involvement can be seen in the

construct of involvement levels proposed by Lamb and

associates, Palkovitz specifically identifies the addition

of a cognitive and affective domain in order to acknowledge

a more internal, or 'self', response to varying situations

encountered in parenting. The fourth misconception ignores

family developmental issues and life course factors. The

fifth misconception ignores the existence of cultural

diversity, clearly contrary to social constructionist

thinking. Finally, the sixth misconception results from a

limited view of involvement, since we really do not know

the extent of the discrepancy of involvement between men

and women in childrearing until we begin to look at

involvement through a wider lens.

Additionally, Palkovitz suggests four factors which

can moderate or modify parental involvement. These are: a)

temporal fluctuations, b) overall context, c) specific

context of involvement (e.g. sole responsibility vs. shared

responsibility), and d) individual differences (e.g. style

and personality, history).

Palkovitz's expanded definition of involvement is

significant because it offers nonresidential fathers the

ability to see themselves as connected to their children in

situations where direct contact may be limited. It also

affords men the ability to recognize they do have the

potential to impact their children's lives, despite limited


The multiple forces acting on fathers to shape their

definitions of fatherhood, and thus their involvement, have

been categorized into four areas: a) motivation, b) skills

and self confidence, c) social supports and stresses, and

d) institutional factors and practices. These four

categories were initially defined by Lamb and associates

(1985). Pleck (1997) used the four categories developed by

Lamb and associates to help organize an extensive review of

the literature on father involvement. Following is a brief

summary of some of his findings. It should be noted that

the majority of the research reviewed, and the literature

on father involvement, has been done on intact families.

Translating these findings to divorced, nonresidential

fathers must be done cautiously.

Research on Motivation

Motivation to parent may begin to take shape early.

The involvement of a man with his own father can have an

impact on how a man responds to his own role as a father

(Radin, 1994; Daly, 1993; Gerson, 1993). This can be either

positive or negative modeling, and a man's response can

also be in either direction (e.g., a man may react to an

absent or uninvolved father by increasing or decreasing his

own involvement). Early socialization processes also affect

men's definition of their role as a father (Gerson, 1993).

A man who grew up with brothers and/or sisters, or who

spent time babysitting, may view children differently than

would a man who had no such experiences. Marital history

can also impact a man's motivation to be an involved

father. There is evidence that positive marital

satisfaction can translate into more positive paternal

involvement. On the other side, marital discord can have a

negative impact on fathering.

Closely tied to marital history is proximal

socialization. Examples of proximal socialization would be

men's involvement in the preparation for the arrival of the

child (e.g., reading books on childcare), attendance at the

birth, taking days off work following the birth. Early

involvement in the preparation can be viewed as indications

of men's motivation to parent, or this early involvement

may serve to help motivate men to be involved (Pleck &

Masciadrelli, 2004). These latter examples can be

influenced by the marital relationship.

The impact of children's age on father involvement is

inconclusive. There are examples of research indicating

age is a factor (e.g., Pleck, 1997). However, recently

Amato and Sobolewski (2004) report a number of studies with

mixed results. Additional research in this area appears


Research on Skills and Self Confidence

It has been shown that men who perceive themselves as

competent as fathers will have increased involvement with

their children (Barush & Barnett, 1986; McHale & Huston,

1984). It has also been shown that efforts to increase

men's parenting skills can result in increased involvement

(McBride, 1989). According to Pleck and Masciadrelli

(2004), recent review of the literature in this area

confirms the influence of skills and self confidence on


The research regarding fathering, as regards single

fathers in particular, has reached the conclusion that men

have the ability to parent. Greif (1985) surveyed via mail

over one thousand single fathers. From their responses he

determined that men can grow confident in their ability to

parent their children. Similarly, work by Risman (1986)

also indicated that men can feel skillful as parents.

Unfortunately, several forces may work against men feeling

confident about their ability to successfully parent their

children. For instance, our society has historically been

relatively devoid of role models for men's parenting.

Closer to home, mothers may act, directly or indirectly, to

limit fathers' involvement with their children, either

fathers living in the home as well as absent or non-

custodial fathers. This idea of gatekeeper moms has been

suggested as a restricting influence on men's involvement

(Fagan & Barnett, 2003; Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Braver,

1998; Carroad, 1994; Meyerhoff, 1994). The concept of

gatekeeper moms will be discussed further in the following

section on social supports.

Research on Social Supports and Stresses

According to Pleck's (1997) review, the marital system

plays a large role in the area of social support and

stress. The concept used in the literature to describe

mothers' influence in limiting paternal involvement in

intact families is gatekeeper mothers. This term has also

been used in the literature on father involvement following

divorce. As noted above, the term refers to a mother's

efforts, conscious or unconscious, to limit a father's

involvement with his children. Arendell (1995) and Gerson

(1993) carried out qualitative studies with divorced

fathers and reported these men often felt that their

children's mothers behaved in ways that blocked or limited

access to their children. Similarly, Kruk (1991) surveyed

80 non-custodial fathers and reported that many of these

men felt they had limited involvement with their children

as a result of structural constraints imposed by the

children's mothers.

A mother/wife's employment appears to have an impact

on the father's involvement, but the literature is

inconclusive. The studies reviewed by Pleck (1997) indicate

there may be an increase in paternal involvement in

comparison to mothers' involvement, but there was no

consistent finding regarding an absolute increase in

paternal involvement.

In addition, mothers' characteristics such as age and

level of education may be important (Goldscheider & Waite,

1991). There is evidence to show that increased age and/or

level of education of mothers results in increased support

for the father being involved.

A mothers' relationship with her own father also

appears to influence her view of paternal involvement,

though Pleck reports that the evidence to support this is

weak (Radin, 1994).

Marital dynamics come into play when considering

support and stresses, but as with motivation there is the

question of whether the nature of the relationship dynamics

lends support or creates stress in regards to paternal

involvement. For example, Blair and associates (1994) and

McBride and Mills (1993) reported higher paternal

involvement with good marital adjustment, while others

(Gerson, 1993) reported increasing paternal involvement

with poor marital adjustment. Other support systems, such

as men's relationships with friends and other male

networks, may also impact fathering styles. However, it

appears that men get little support from other men, and

perhaps have increased stress as a result. Recent research

indicates that social support systems continue to have an

impact on non-residential fathers, in both positive and not

so positive ways (Bailey and Zvonkovic, 2003).

Research on Institutional Factors and Practices

Characteristics of a father's employment context can

promote or limit a father's involvement. This may be a

result of the labor market or corporate/work culture

influence. For example, workplace policies can have an

impact on work-family conflicts, with policies such as flex

time or four day work weeks shown to increase fathers'

involvement (Volling & Belsky, 1991).

Legal institutions may also have an impact on

involvement. For instance, the judicial system will have an

impact on involvement of divorced or unmarried fathers by

virtue of decisions made by the courts regarding issues

such as custody and visitation. Court appointed mediators

and attorneys may also impact the amount and manner of

visitation or shared custody a father may be granted.

Impact of Divorce on Fathers

The complexities of fatherhood bring an inherent need

for men to make adjustments throughout the life course

(Goodnough & Lee, 1996). The impact of divorce can add to

these adjustment issues. A number of researchers over the

past three decades have reported both physical and mental

problems for divorced men (Freiman, 2003a, 2003b;

Hetherington, Cox & Cox, 1979; Jacobs, 1982; Pruett &

Pruett, 1998; Lehr & MacMillan, 2001; Wu & Hart, 2002).

Hetherington and Tryon (1989), researchers of divorce,

summarized their impressions of divorce in their article on

"His and Her" divorces. In this article they discussed the

increase in men's psychological symptoms following divorce.

They also noted that men often report an increase in their

sense of the value of marriage and family after divorce.

Furthermore, they concluded men may feel rootless and

struggle with self-identity issues. These same authors

additionally addressed the idea that among divorced men a

"...pervasive concern ...is the sense of loss of their

children." (p.60).

Hetherington and Tyron's comments are consistent with

findings from earlier research on fathers' experience after

divorce. Jacobs (1982), in his review of the literature to

date, reported divorced men felt "shut out" and "rootless",

and experienced a sense of loss of their children. More

recently, Stone (2001) surveyed 124 men who had been

divorced an average of three years to determine the impact

of divorce on their well-being. He reported that after

divorce many of the fathers had a sense of decreased role

clarity and increased difficulty in psychological

adjustment. In particular, noncustodial fathers reported

problems with self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Lehr &

MacMillan (2001), and Hetherington, Cox & Cox (1979) also

discussed problems for men in the areas of self-esteem and

self-concept. Lehr & MacMillan (2001) performed group

interviews with a total of 18 noncustodial fathers. In

addition to the aforementioned findings regarding self-

esteem and self-concept, they also reported other stress

related symptoms such as sleeplessness, crying, decreased

energy and fatigue, and loss of appetite. Health issues

were also reported by Pruett & Pruett (1998), who related

these health issues for men, along with stress and

psychological strain, to lack of involvement with their

children. Jacobs (1982) also reported physical symptoms

such as weight loss and headaches.

A common theme among men reporting problems was the

belief that the court system was in part responsible for

their difficulties. Arendell (1995) referred to this

phenomenon as the "...paradigm of victimization..."

(p.102). In her qualitative study of approximately 100

divorced men, she found a recurrent perception of

victimization and loss of rights as a father. This is

similar to the findings of Lehr & Macmillan (2001). As

noted earlier, these researchers conducted group interviews

with 18 non-custodial fathers. They reported these men

frequently felt disenfranchised as a result of the court

system's rulings on visitation.


Impact of Divorce on Children

Although the literature addressing the impact of

divorce on children varies significantly, there are

consistent indications that children are at risk for

adjustment problems following divorce or separation of

their parents. These problems might include decreased

academic performance, behavioral problems, and lowered

self-concept or sense of competence (self-efficacy)

(Whiteside & Becker, 2000; Amato, 2001, 2000, 1993; Amato &

Gilbreth 1999; Kelly, 1998; King, 1994). Wallerstein and

Kelly (1980), in one of the well known early studies on

divorce, the authors interviewed members of 60 families

over a 5 year period. They concluded that regular and

frequent visitation by the nonresidential parent (usually

the father) could help increase children's self-esteem and

ward off depression. Jacobs (1982) reviewed the literature

to date on divorce and drew similar conclusions. He

surmised from his review that visitation or access would

equal less distress in children of divorce. From his

review he also identified as potential problems decreased

self-esteem, depression, aggression, decreased school

performance, and anti-social activities. More recent

studies have shown similar results. Kelly (1998) reviewed

the literature regarding children's adjustment to divorce.

Although she found mixed results, she did find indications

of potential problems with anger and aggression, sadness

and depression, decreased academic performance, anti-social

behavior and decreased concentration. More current work

continues to indicate potential problems. Sun and Li

(2002) used data from the National Education Longitudinal

Study to look at children's adjustment at four time points

over a 6 year period. Their results indicated that

children might have poorer academic performance, lower

self-esteem, lower self-efficacy and lower educational

aspirations. Sandler and co-workers (2000) looked at the

impact of coping efficacy (i.e., self-efficacy) in 356

children of divorce aged 9 to 12. They concluded that

children could have psychological adjustment difficulties

which would manifest in areas such as problem solving and

decision making, and wishful thinking (e.g. wanting the

parents to reunite).

There are two primary ways that nonresident fathers'

involvement with their children can impact the child's

adjustment to divorce. The first of these is the nature of

the involvement the father has with his children. The

second is the amount and intensity of conflict between the

parents. A better understanding of men's experiences in

both these areas could be useful in designing

parenting/divorce classes. Increased understanding could

also inform the creation of therapeutic interventions for

men who chose to work with a counselor, and possibly for

counselors who may be working with children of divorce.

Improved effectiveness in either of these arenas could have

a positive influence on fathers' involvement with their


Fathers whose involvement includes maintaining more

direct contact with their children can influence the

child's well-being and adjustment via continued emotional

support, practical help such as training and instructing,

supervision, and providing material resources (King, 1994;

Amato, Loomis & Booth, 1995). This contact may be face to

face, over the telephone, or through mail or e-mail.

Although contact is important, King (1994), in reviewing

the literature for her study, identified a common theme in

the literature: the quality of contact is more important

than quantity of contact.

Whiteside and Becker (2000) reviewed the literature

addressing children under age six experiencing divorce.

They concluded that a warm, authoritative parenting style

worked best to promote positive outcomes for children.

Authoritative parenting is characterized by "...parental

acceptance, inductive discipline, non-punitive punishment

practices, and consistency in childrearing..." (Gray &

Steinberg, 1999, p.574). This is in contrast to

authoritarian parenting which is characterized more by a

demand for complete obedience, a more harsh style of

parenting. Their findings supported the premise that there

should be less focus on overnights (i.e., amount of direct

contact) and more focus on the nature of the involvement.

This echoed earlier work (Tschann, et al, 1990) that

concluded consistency in discipline as part of a warm,

empathic (i.e., authoritative) relationship between father

and child was helpful in reducing behavioral problems.

The second manner in which fathers can impact their

child's adjustment to divorce involves the level of

conflict between him and the mother after the divorce.

Tscann and associates (1990) studied 184 families of

divorce and concluded conflict was the greatest predictor

of children's adjustment. Amato and Rezac (1994), using

data on over 1200 children from the National Survey of

Families and Households, found that if the nonresidential

parent's contact included conflict with the residential

parent, the results could be detrimental to children's

adjustment. Additionally, in interviews with 471 adult

children of divorce, Amato and associates (1995) concluded

that conflict between the parents is a factor in adjustment

for children. Recent work has begun to look at the impact

of pre-divorce conflict, as well as post-divorce contact,

as a factor in children's adjustment to divorce (Sun & Li,


The general acceptance of conflict as a factor in

children's adjustment following divorce can be seen in the

focus of the self-help literature available to persons

experiencing divorce. This literature is based on research

(Ahrons, 1994), personal experience (Ross & Corcoran,

1996), or professional experience (Ricci, 1997; Long &

Forehand, 2002; Thayer & Zimmerman, 2001). All these works

stress the importance of parents resolving conflict as a

critical step toward helping their children adjust to


The research on impact of the pre-divorce relationship

a father had with his children is not definitive.

Hetherington and Kelly (2002) found pre-divorce involvement

was not a good predictor of father involvement after the

divorce. These authors acknowledged those fathers whose

involvement did not change as a result of the divorce. They

also identified "divorce activated fathers" (those men who

increased involvement after a divorce), as well as "divorce

deactivated fathers" (men.who had less involvement after a


The more recent research on the impact of divorce on

children has tended to indicate that the problem may not be

as significant as one believed. Hetherington and Kelly

(2002) argued the negative effects of divorce had been

somewhat exaggerated and that most children do adjust and

show no long term problems. However, the above review

indicates the potential for problems does exist, warranting

further research which could lead to information useful in

taking steps to further lessen the risk of divorce for


The Value of Qualitative Research

There are several.examples of qualitative work on

fathering. The work of Walzer (1996) on the "mental labor"

of baby care and how the parental division of this labor

can influence children's gender differentiation is one

example. Walzer used interview data from 25 couples to

determine that there were three types of mental labor

involved in baby care, and that women were more involved in

this mental labor than were men. What is missing from this

work is an attempt to determine the process by which men

become less involved with their children, or women more

involved. Some factors were identified (e.g., gender

socialization influences), but no attempt was made to learn

how men or women process (integrate and assimilate) these

factors in determining their roles. Similarly, Daly (1993)

interviewed 27 fathers in his work on role models for

fatherhood. However, his findings do not appear to address

the process men use to arrive at their response to role

models, and what other factors impact that response.

Another example of qualitative research on fatherhood

is the 1994 study by White. White studied the way men's

meanings of fatherhood and recollections of the type of

fathering they received come together to influence men's

definitions of fatherhood. This study demonstrates the

potential for qualitative research to identify the

processes by which men arrive at the meanings which guide

their behavior. Other examples of qualitative research

that address fathering include Arendell's (1995) study of

divorced fathers, Lupton and Barcley's (1997) study of

first time parents, and Riessman's (1990) work on divorce

(note: Riessman began her study as a more traditional

quantitative work using interview data, but felt her study

evolved toward a qualitative study).

Qualitative models can incorporate fathers' reactions

to factors which inform their style of fathering (i.e., the

operationalization of his definition of fathering). This

openness to a broader range of influences in more

subjective arenas (e.g., level of conflict with the mother

or sense of closeness to children) is necessary if

researchers are to learn more about how men respond to and

integrate these multiple influences into their definition

of their fathering. However, the work to date has

typically focused on men's reactions to sources of

influence, rather than on how men process and integrate

these influences. This focus may be the result of the

researcher's decision as to where to place emphasis along

the continuum that is the divorce experience (e.g., initial

separation through years after the divorce). In contrast

to quantitative research, which looks at cause and effect

(end result) work in the qualitative arena shifts the focus

towards the process that led to that end result. As such it

tends to emphasize some aspect of the process, and draws

conclusions, or ends. The study reported in this paper was

an effort to discover more about how men process the

multiple factors that influence how they define their

fathering roles during the initial stage of the divorce


Summary of Key Findings

This literature review has established that men's

involvement with their children is changed by divorce, with

this change frequently being in the direction of less

involvement. The literature also has shown that men can

have personal adjustment difficulties with divorce, and

that these difficulties may impact the father-child

relationship. Furthermore, this review points out how

children can be affected by divorce, and how father

involvement can inform those effects. The review also

points out the emphasis to date on quantitative work. As

stated earlier, this emphasis on cause and effect type

research does not adequately address the more subtle

aspects of what men experience during the divorce process.

It is my belief that an understanding of the changes

in men's thinking about fathering, in the early stages of

divorce, is important. This understanding is necessary if

interventions are to be effective in promoting men's

involvement with their children. It is also my belief that

qualitative research is the most effective way to learn

more about men's thinking, thus establishing the need for

more qualitative work in the area of divorced fathers.

Chapter 3

The design of this study was qualitative in nature,

specifically employing the principles of grounded theory

methodology. Grounded theory fits well with symbolic

interactionism, the theoretical framework for this study.

Blumer (1969), in discussing symbolic interactionism,

refers to it as an "empirical social science...designed to

yield verifiable knowledge of human group life and human

conduct" (p.21). Blumer further stated that empirical

social science should employ, "...naturalistic study..."

which "...respects and stays close to the empirical domain

which it intends to explore" (p.46). This thinking is

echoed by Hutchinson (1988) in describing grounded theory

as research that "...goes beyond existent theories and

preconceived conceptual frameworks in search of new

understandings of social processes in natural settings"

(Hutchinson, 1988, p.123).

According to Hutchinson (1988), basic to the grounded

theory method is the importance of discovery of the core

variable in the study, the basic social-psychological

process. The basic social-psychological process is one of

two components of the basic social process, or BSP (Glaser,

1978). (The other being the basic social structural

process, which was not addressed in this study). The idea

of the basic social process comes from Glaser (1978). In

discussing the basic social process, Glaser (1978) refers

to a process as "...something which occurs over time and

involves change over time". (p. 97). The basic social

process refers to those changes that occur which

"...account for variations in the ...pattern of behavior"

(p.97). In grounded theory research there is the

assumption that people in common circumstances have social

psychological problems in common that are a result of their

shared life experience (e.g., men who are divorced or

divorcing). This basic problem is addressed through the

social psychological process (i.e., the variation in the

pattern of behavior). The discovery of the basic

psychological problem and the basic social process, the

BSP, is a major goal of grounded theory research. This

discovery is made through the careful collection, recording

and analysis of data, as described below.

Research Participants

This study used purposive, or purposeful, sampling.

Persons typically studied.in purposive samplings are

individuals who have responded to or experienced a common

or central phenomenon. The choice of participants is aimed

at maximizing information and providing context and

patterns, as opposed to looking forward to possible

generalizations. According to Glaser and Strauss (1967),

the purpose of the sample and data collection "...is to

generate theory, not to establish verifications with the

'facts'" (p.48). Purposive sampling is done with the intent

of beginning the generation of theory.

This study used criteria-based selective sampling, a

specific form of purposive sampling. Rafuls and Moon

(1997) suggest the use of criteria-based selective sampling

at the beginning of grounded theory research. This refers

to sampling based on "...a preconceived set of criteria

that originates from the researcher's guiding assumptions

and research questions (p.68)". In this case the

assumption was that men's thoughts about fathering will

change as a result of experiencing the divorce process.

The research question was "How do divorcing men's

perceptions of fathering change during the transition from

live-in, bi-custodial father to noncustodial,

nonresidential father?" Therefore, the criteria in this

study was that the participants be in the initial stage of

divorce and that they anticipate being in the

nonresidential parental role.

In grounded theory research, additional sampling is

guided by the data as the researcher continues to add

participants in response to questions or themes which are

identified during data analysis. This is referred to as

theoretical sampling. The sampling would continue until

theoretical saturation is achieved (i.e., no new

information is forthcoming). As a matter of pragmatics

this study was limited in regard to theoretical sampling

and the possible achievement of true theoretical

saturation. However, as an initial study aimed at

developing theory, this research should have achieved

sufficient saturation to provide a solid foundation upon

which future research might be built.

The participants selected for this study were twelve

fathers who were currently involved in the divorce process

with their spouse. Specifically this meant that in each

case a petition for divorce had been filed with the court

but no final judgment had been rendered by the court. The

choice of twelve participants was based on the premise that

in naturalistic research twelve interviews should allow the

researcher to reach redundancy, a term that refers to the

point where no new information is forthcoming (Lincoln &

Guba, 1985).

The fathers participating had at least one child aged

5 to 12 years old. This age range was chosen for three

reasons. First was the belief that during this age range

(kindergarten to middle school) "...father's

involvement...is a crucial factor in determining whether

the child develops the confidence and competence to meet

new challenges in a positive manner." (Biller and Kimpton,

1997, p.144). Secondly, eliminating adolescent children

would make views of fathering in the future less

complicated (e.g., it would eliminate issues related to the

significant shifts in parenting style that occur as

adolescents begin to assert their needs for independence).

The third rationale for setting an age range was to

encourage richer data by ensuring more homogeneity within

the purposive sample.

Additionally, only fathers who did not anticipate

becoming the custodial, or primary residential parent, were

selected. This decision was based on the assumption that

having residential custody would influence fathering

differently than having a noncustodial, or nonresidential,


I use the terms custodial/primary residential parent

and noncustodial parent since these are the terms used in

the 2004 Florida Statues, Title VI, Chapter 61. The

custodial parent is defined as the parent with whom the

children have primary residence, while the noncustodial

parent is defined as the parent with whom the children do

not maintain primary residence (i.e., nonresidential). I

also considered the term nonresidential as synonymous with

noncustodial. Nonresidential father was the term I used

when interviewing and interacting with the participants. I

made this choice of wording because I felt it was less

harsh, and would be better received by the men who

participated in the project. I felt this was important

since the term nonresidential was used frequently during

the interview process.

The law also refers to rotating custody (e.g., half

the year with mom and half the year with dad), but this

would still place men outside the co-residential, two

parent structure. Combining the custodial and noncustodial

groups would confound the issues. The choice to study

noncustodial fathers was based on the fact that this group

comprises approximately 85% of fathers who experience

divorce (Fields, 2000).

The initial plan for recruitment of participants

required approaching the Family Court Judge in the Eighth

Judicial Circuit to obtain permission to recruit from the

court required class for all parents with minor children

seeking a divorce (Florida Statue 61.21). Unfortunately,

cooperation from the court was not forthcoming. After much

delay, the decision was made to go directly to the public

records. Accordingly, the records of the Alachua County

Court and the Marion County Court, the Eighth Judicial

Circuit and Fifth Judicial Circuit, respectively, were used

to recruit participants. The process entailed requesting

from the Clerk of Court offices a listing of all persons

who had filed for divorce over a given period (e.g., 030104

through 040104). I would submit the list to the records

room staff, which in turn would provide the files. The

files were then reviewed to determine if the fathers

involved in a divorce met the criteria of ages of children

and had provided a working address. A letter (Appendix B)

inviting the men to participate was then mailed to each

person meeting the criteria, along with a stamped,

addressed postcard requesting the participant's phone

number if he were interested in taking part in the study.

The men returning a postcard were then contacted and an

initial interview was arranged. In cases where there would

be a delay before the initial interview could occur, the

demographic questionnaire and consent form were mailed to

the participant in advance. After approximately 6 months,

I learned I could access all necessary information online

for the Alachua County Court and thereafter all participant

information from the Eighth Judicial Circuit were obtained

via the internet. No such option was available for the

Fifth Circuit (for privacy reasons no addresses were made

available on line by the Fifth Circuit).

Approximately 200 letters were mailed out to potential

participants. Fifteen men returned the postcard. Of these,

one proved to be anticipating primary residential custody,

and three could not be scheduled for interviews. The 12

participants represented diversity in age, race,

educational level, and socioeconomic status (Table I),

though not as much diversity as was anticipated. The

implications of this will be discussed in "Limitations of

the Study" in Chapter 5.

There also was diversity among the participants

regarding the duration of the marital relationship prior to

the divorce proceedings. There was minimal diversity in the

number of children in the family (11 of the men had 1 or 2

children. There was a range in children's age, but this

was of course limited by the design of the study. This

diversity among the participants is consistent with the

idea of maximum variation sampling (Lincoln & Guba, 1995),

which can identify important common themes within the

primary group (divorcing fathers).




Latino: 3
African American: 4
Caucasian: 5

RANGE---------------------------------- 32 TO 60
MEAN AGE----------------------------------- 40.3

HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA------------------------ 1
SOME COLLEGE--------------------------------3
COLLEGE DEGREE (B.S. OR B.A.)-------------- 5
ADVANCED DEGREE----------------------------- 3

RANGE------------------------------ -- 18,000 to
MEAN INCOME ------------------------------- 45K

ONE------------------------------------- 4
TWO---------------------------------------- 7
FIVE---------------------------------------- 1

Data Collection Procedures

The data collection occurred in a four step process:

a) collection of demographic information through the use of

a questionnaire (Appendix C); b) an initial interview with

each individual participant, which ended with the

assignment of a photography task; c) performance of the

task of the collection of photographs by each participant

and d) a second interview with each individual participant.

At the initial meeting each participant was given the

consent form (Appendix A) and the demographic questionnaire

to complete, a task which took approximately 5 minutes to

complete. There were five exceptions to this in the cases

where the consent form and demographic questionnaire were

mailed to the participant ahead of time. This was done due

to a necessary delay in scheduling the initial interview.

The mailing of the forms was intended to help engage the

participant and ensure his participation in the study.

Immediately following completion of this task the

second step, the initial interview, commenced. These

interviews were semi-structured and lasted approximately

one to one and a half hours. Interview questions (See

Appendix D for a list of the initial interview questions)

were designed to encourage men to talk about what factors

had informed their meanings of fathering (e.g., "Who has

had the strongest influence on your thoughts and ideas

about being a father?"), what fathering meant to them prior

to the current time (e.g., "Have these thoughts about being

a...father changed since faced with being the

nonresidential parent?"), and what shifts may have occurred

in those meanings as a result of the divorce process (e.g.,

"What three words would you have used to describe a father

before your divorce became a possibility?" and "What three

words would you use now to describe a father?").

The questions took two forms. The most common form

was the open ended question (e.g., "What is the most

rewarding thing about being a father?"). The other form

was the scaling question. The idea for scaling questions

comes from the Solution-Focused model of therapy, which was

conceived by Steve deShazer (1991, 1985) and Insoo Kim Berg

(1994). One goal of scaling questions is to help someone

"...become more aware of his current position, where he

wants to get to, what he is doing that helps, what he will

need to do." (Berg, 1994, p.105). In using scaling

questions the interviewer asked the participant to rate

something on a scale of 1 to 10 (e.g., relationship with

your children, with 1 being not very close to 10 being very

close). Follow-up questions to the above scaling questions

explored what kept the ratings from being higher, or lower,

or what could the participant do to get the rating higher,

depending on the participant's responses and the tone of

the interview to that point.

The interviews occurred in a cluster fashion. Four

participants were interviewed, and an analysis of the data

from these interviews was initiated prior to interviewing a

second group of four fathers. The remaining four fathers

were interviewed after data analysis had begun on the

interviews with the second four fathers. The criteria for

placing fathers in any given group was first available

fathers. Although interviews were completed on four

fathers prior to initiating interviews with the second

group of four fathers, it should be noted that all

interviews were conducted individually, not in groups of

four. The purpose of this format was to allow the data

from the first set of interviews to inform the second set,

and the first and second sets to inform the final set.

This cluster model was designed to promote increased

theoretical sensitization, which could help guide

successive interviews. For example, a question

specifically targeting men's thoughts about the impact of

the courts was added to the original list after numerous

comments about the court system.

Step three of the data collection began at the

conclusion of the initial interview. Prior to leaving the

interview each participant was given a disposable camera,

with instructions (Appendix E) to photograph situations or

scenes that signified fathering for him. The instructions

encouraged taking pictures portraying his thoughts about

what it meant to be a father before he was considering

divorce as well as his thoughts now and what he anticipated

his thoughts to be after the divorce. The instructions

also allowed for flexibility in what men would capture in

their photos (e.g., themselves as fathers or other men as

fathers, or children's behavior as a result of fathering

behaviors). Additionally, participants were invited to

bring to the second interview any photographs they may

already have in their possession which they felt were

representative of fathering. The cameras were returned to

the researcher for processing and readiness of the

photographs prior to the fourth step, a follow-up interview

with each participant. The pictures were intended to give

a visual display of meanings, allowing further exploration

of fathering with the participants during the second

interview. This is consistent with what Ziller (1990)

referred to as the photo assisted interview. The pictures

were not intended to be interpreted by the researcher, but

to provide a catalyst for conversation and exploration of

what was important to the father that led to the taking of

any specific picture.

The fourth step was a second interview with each

individual participant, again following the cluster of four

format. This second interview focused on two areas. One

purpose of this interview was to discuss and explore the

meanings of the photographs. A second purpose was to

clarify responses or further explore areas identified in

the initial interview. The second interview also served as

a form of member checking to help establish the

trustworthiness of the study. The questions in both

interviews were guided by sensitizing concepts developed

prior to the interview. It was anticipated that there

would be approximately 3 weeks between the first and second

interviews, allowing time for both initial analysis of the

first interviews, and the retrieval and processing of the

cameras. This proved to be the case with the majority of

the participants. There were three participants who had

the film developed themselves as a matter of convenience.

These men were reimbursed for cost of the developing.

The primary method of data collection in grounded

theory is the interview process (Creswell, 1998).

Accordingly, my study employed the interview of individual

participants as the primary method of data collection.

Each participant was interviewed two times as noted above,

with the exceptions of two men who dropped out of the study

prior to the second interview. All interviews were tape

recorded, with two recorders operating simultaneously to

ensure accurate capturing of the entire interview for later

documentation. Since all participants were interviewed

twice, sensitizing concepts developed as a result of

earlier interviews were incorporated into the second

interviews with earlier participants. This format was

consistent with the concept of constant comparative

analysis, a significant feature of grounded theory


Sensitizing Concepts

Sensitizing concepts are constructs that help focus

the researcher as he or she collects and analyzes data.

They provide guidance and a sense of reference in

approaching the data (van den Hoonaard, 1997). The

original idea of sensitizing concepts suggested that they

would evolve from the data. Blumer, who first identified

sensitizing concepts, suggested they could provide

"directions along which to look" (in van den Hoonaard,

1997, p.3). Regarding directions along which to look,

sensitizing concepts can be developed prior to beginning

data collection and analysis through the researcher's

knowledge of the literature and personal experience.

The sensitizing concepts employed initially in this

study were informed by the work of: (a) Walzer (1996), who

looked at, among other things, gender socialization

influences on fathering, (b) Daly (1995), who studied the

impact of role models on men's fathering ideas, and (c)

White (1994), who examined men's recollections about their

own fathers. In addition, personal influence in the

formulation of concepts stemmed from my experience both as

a father and as a single father, and my experience as a

provider of the parenting class for divorcing parents. As

a single father I had primary residential custody of my

children. This reflected my strong belief about staying

involved with your children after a divorce and what it

means to be a father. Interview questions such as "What

makes a good father?" likely came with an expectation of

what would be a good answer as a result of my views.

Likewise, a question such as "In what ways, if any, has

your changed role as a father impacted how you think about

yourself?" evolved from a belief that the change would have

an impact on self image. In the analysis stage, I believe

the emergence of properties regarding the role of the

mother and accommodation was influences by my experience

with participants in my Parent Stabilization class.

However, personal experience is somewhat of a double edge

sword in qualitative research since it may also contribute

to researcher bias. Addressing potential bias is discussed

later in this chapter and in Chapter 5.

There were five initial sensitizing concepts used to

guide inquiry and analysis of how men's fathering changes

over the divorce process. These were: a) the relative

influence of various factors which could inform fathering

such as the relationship with the mother, amount of contact

with extended family, work perspectives, or peer group

involvement; b) the process of retrospection, or looking to

the past; c) the process of projection, or looking to the

future; d) interaction, or linking of various factors (such

as those noted for relative influence); and e) gender

socialization of the father.

The first concept, relative influence, was evident in

such questions as "Who has had the strongest influence on

your thoughts and ideas about being a father?", and follow-

up questions to explore responses that might give a

hierarchical sense of impact of past or current

experiences. Analysis of data occurred with. an eye toward

statements that might indicate the importance of specific

influences (e.g., "My dad...because he was always there.").

A second concept was retrospection. With this concept in

mind, questions were asked that encouraged the research

participant to explore the past (e.g., "When did you first

think about becoming a father?"). References to the past

were also noted when analyzing the data ("...when I was a

teenager...oh yea..."). The third concept was projection.

Guided by this idea the researcher asked questions with a

future orientation (e.g., "How do you think you will rate

your relationship with your children in five years?").

Similarly, when analyzing the data I was sensitive to

references to the future or possible future events. The

fourth concept, linking or interaction, appeared in the

interview as questions and responses to questions that

suggested connections. These connections could be between

past and present experiences (e.g., "How do you think your

wife initiating the divorce might influence your thinking

about fathering after the divorce?"), between two similar

experiences (e.g., "How might you compare...?"), or any

multitude of possibilities that could arise during the

interview or analysis of the data. Gender as a sensitizing

concept influenced how all data was analyzed. This

sensitization was prompted by the work of Arendell (1995),

who found gender socialization to play a major role in how

men viewed their divorce. As noted earlier, the cluster

model (interviewing in blocks of 4) allowed for the

possibility of other sensitizing concepts to evolve from

the data as analysis occurs, thus fitting the original idea

of Blumer.

Data Analysis

Analysis followed the principles of constant

comparative analysis characteristic of grounded theory

research. Analysis began with the coding of the data.

Coding procedures are "...the operations by which data are

broken down, conceptualized, and put back together in new

ways. It is the central process by which theories are

built from data" (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p.57).

Coding occurs at three levels. It is important to

note that this model of a three level coding process is not

necessarily sequential in nature. The coding at all three

levels can and should be done recursively as the new data

is analyzed, and that proved to be the case in this study.

This recursive approach to analysis is an integral feature

of the constant comparative method of data analysis in

grounded theory methodology.

The first level of coding is referred to as open

coding. This type of coding specifically looks to name

incidents, activities or episodes through careful

examination of the collected data (the transcript) on a

line by line basis. The data is reduced to discrete parts,

examined to identify differences and similarities, and

questions about the data are asked to further clarify its

meaning. The pieces of data are then categorized according

to the similarities or differences, and the properties of

the categories are identified.

The second level of coding is axial coding. This type

of coding requires efforts to restructure the data in new

ways by identifying connections between categories and

their subcategories. A goal is to find relationships

between properties of categories. This tends to move the

data toward a more abstract level. An example of this

would be the properties of accommodation and justification

and their relationship to separation. Several of these men

accommodated the mother of their children in an effort to

preserve their ability to be with the children. They would

then justify the accommodation. Both of these activities

were related to the separation from the children the men

experienced. Specific examples of accommodation and

justification will be presented in the next chapter.

The third level of coding, selective coding, is

intended to further condense the data, producing

theoretical constructs. The patterns of these constructs

result in the theory, which should be 'grounded' in the


When the researcher feels all codes are complete and

no new conceptual codes can be identified, theoretical

saturation has occurred. At that point, the basic social

process has been determined and the writing of the theory

can begin. In this study I did not discover a true basic

social process. This will be discussed in Chapter 4 and

Chapter 5.


Throughout the data collection and analysis process,

memoing was a key activity. Memoing is the researcher's

efforts to record thoughts, questions, and ideas that could

come to mind during the research process. Memoing can take

the form of personal notes (what the researcher thinks) or

observational notes (what the researcher sees). Memos can

be theoretical or methodological in nature. The goal of

theoretical memoing is to further conceptualize what is

happening in the data and identify the basic psychosocial

process and emerging theory. Methodological memos serve to

help modify or clarify issues concerning the research

process. Additionally, memoing is helpful in establishing

trustworthiness, the qualitative equivalent of "reliability

and validity" by creating an audit trail to document the

data collection and analysis process (See discussion under

Reliability and Validity). In keeping with this approach,

I made frequent memos during the course of the study. Many

times these occurred as written notes immediately after

leaving an interview site. More often they were made

during the transcription of the interviews, and during

analysis of the data/transcriptions.

Protection of Participants

Each participant was presented with a consent form for

their review and signature. After reviewing the form and

having the opportunity to ask questions, participants were

asked to sign the form.

Confidentiality of the participants was maintained by

avoiding the use of identifying names during the collection

of data. Transcribed material was to be identified by

number only. This was the case in only one interview as I

turned out to be the person transcribing all other

interviews. (Possible implications of this single

interviewer/transcriber model are discussed in Chapter

Five) Cameras and processed film were identified by

number, corresponding to initial interview number to allow

for appropriate follow-up.

I assumed there would be minimal risk to the

participants in this study. However, as a safeguard I had

reached a verbal agreement with the Alachua County Crisis

Center for follow-up referrals to be made available to the

study participants upon request if anyone experienced any

difficulty as a result of the research process.

Initial approval for this study was obtained from the

Institutional Review Board of the University of Florida

(Appendix F). However, the initial approval was for the

original plan to recruit participants via the court

required classes as discussed earlier. The necessary

change in approach to obtaining participants was also

presented to the IRB, and approval for the change was

obtained. Renewed approval for the use of the informed

consent form was also obtained in December of 2004. This

became necessary due to the prolonged nature of obtaining

participants for the study.

Reliability and Validity/Trustworthiness

Reliability and validity in qualitative research have

different meanings than the same terms in quantitative

research. Whereas quantitative research can use

statistical analysis to help establish reliability or

validity, qualitative research has no such option. Several

authors have offered alternative terms. Glesne and Peshkin

(1992) use the word trustworthiness synonymous with

reliability and validity. Lincoln and Guba (1985) use the

term trustworthiness, but also suggest the concepts of

credibility, transferability, dependability, and

confirmability might be used.

Merriam (1988) suggests a number of ways in which

researchers may enhance reliability in qualitative

research. The first of these is to clarify their position

by identifying biases and stating their theoretical

position. The second idea is to make sound

informant/participant choices (e.g., interview divorcing

fathers if you want to learn how the process of divorce

impacts men). A third idea is what Merriam calls

triangulation. This involves using multiple sources of

data. The multiple sources of data for this study included

interviews, observation of men's reaction during the

interviews, and the use of photographs. The fourth way to

enhance reliability is to create an audit trail. This

refers to the keeping of records of interviews and

observations, and also records of personal memos used

during the recording and analysis of data. The original

tapes of all interviews, copies of the transcription of the

interviews, and copies of all memos were maintained


Validity in qualitative research can be strengthened

through long term observation, repeat interviews,

discussion of results with the interview participants, and

through 'thick description'. Thick description results

from good data collection and data analysis. It is

required in order to avoid the spurious or quick

conclusions that could lead to doubts of the study's

validity (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).

Another technique to enhance trustworthiness is the

use of member checks (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). This refers

to checking back with participants to elicit feedback on

ideas the researcher has developed from data collected and

analyzed thus far. In this study, member checks occurred

at the second interview with each participant.

Researcher Bias

In qualitative research, the researcher is the

research instrument, or instrument of data collection.

This situation makes it critical for the researcher to

examine his or her own possible biases. I identified two

potential areas of bias I would need to monitor closely.

These were my own divorce history and my role as a provider

of one of the local Parent Stabilization classes required

by the courts for all divorcing parents with minor


My personal history strongly influences my particular

biases. I divorced the mother of my two children when they

were five and seven years old. The divorce agreement

stated that I was to have primary residential custody of my

children, with liberal visitation rights granted to their

mother. As a single father I am acutely aware of my

preconceived notions regarding fathering. For example, I

strongly believe that fathers need to be involved in the

lives of their children. I further believe that divorced

fathers need to make whatever sacrifices are reasonable to

remain involved in their children's lives. It was these

types of personal beliefs that I needed to monitor during

data collection and analysis. Although my personal

experiences served to increase my theoretical sensitivity,

I believe there is a fine line between having one's prior

knowledge and personal experience inform the analysis

versus shape the analysis.

I also had concerns regarding my status a Parent

Stabilization class provider. My experience in the

classroom has only served to strengthen my views about

parenting after divorce. There were times during the

interviews when I had to censor myself from being a teacher

in order to allow the interview to proceed. Interestingly,

I had no trouble complimenting the men who recounted

stories of appropriate behavior, but hesitated to point out

problematic behaviors.

I chose for this study single fathers who would not

have residential custody. This choice was made mainly due

to the percentage of fathers who are the nonresidential

parent. However, the choice was also made in part based on

the assumption that these men would have a different

experience of post divorce fathering than mine, thus

allowing some buffer from bias.

I also made the assumption that change would occur for

men during the divorce process. I believed that change

would occur as a result of the changing structural

relationships with their children (e.g., living outside the

home). This assumption was based in part on my personal

experiences with men in the nonresidential parenting role,

in part from reading the literature, and in part on my

belief in the tenets of symbolic interactionism.

However, it was important for me to remain highly

cognizant of my own notions/biases as the data was

analyzed. There were four safeguards I used to protect

against bias: 1) self-monitoring; 2) monitoring via my

doctoral committee; 3) member checks; and 4) peer


The first safeguard was constant self monitoring of

personal reactions to the participants and their responses,

and the noting of these responses for further exploration.

This occurred mainly through self refection at the end of

each interview. Fortunately, all of the men who

participated in this study voiced values similar to my own.

This spared me the task of monitoring any negative feelings

I might have had if their views had been opposite or less

similar to my own. However, following each interview

I would review my impression of the participant, then

mentally step back and try to see things from his

perspective. Memos were written as reminders and for

possible further exploration as noted above.

This exploration was a part of the second safeguard,

discussion of the analysis and my personal reactions with

the chairperson and/or members of my doctoral committee.

This turned out to be mostly discussion of my personal

reactions (e.g., researcher versus therapist issues), and

were mostly discussed with one committee member.

The third safeguard was discussion of the emerging

findings with the participants themselves during the second

interview, a procedure known as member checking (Lincoln &

Guba, 1985). Follow up interviews were used to check out

such early impressions as the issue of guilt, or the role

of failure for these men.

The final safeguard was peer debriefing. Peer

debriefing is the use of professional peers not involved in

the research who "...ask the difficult questions that the

inquirer might otherwise avoid..., to explore

methodological next steps..., and to provide a sympathetic

listening point for personal catharsis." (Lincoln & Guba,

1985, p.283). I had secured two persons to serve as peer

debriefers. I chose one male and one female, in an effort

to add another female voice in what otherwise is a study

with predominantly male voices. One of these was a co-

worker that I saw on a daily basis Monday through Friday.

The second was a long time colleague that I met with

weekly. Our conversations were somewhat informal as they

often occurred spontaneously. Issues discussed included

the balance between researcher and therapist, the possible

reasons for the poor response rate, and the role of

conflict in the relationships these men had with their

wives or children. For example, I had several discussions

with one of my peer debriefers (the co-worker) regarding

the men's values and how they may or may not reflect

general attitudes of men in our society.

As the study progressed I found I had little

difficulty separating my experience as a divorced father

from that of the participants. This may have been a result

of entering the interviews and analysis with an acute

awareness of the difference in my situation as compared to

the situation of the men I interviewed. I believe it also

was in part a result of the clear differences in the

stories these men told surrounding their divorces and the

resultant arrangements with their children, in comparison

to my own story.

However, I quickly became aware of a bias I had not

anticipated, that of being a therapist first and a

researcher second. I entered into this study with the

belief that my experience as a therapist would prove

beneficial in the interview process. I instead found I was

censoring myself when I felt I was moving too much into

therapist mode during the interviews. (On at least one

occasion this was necessary when a participant expressed

suicidal ideation.) For example, in situations where men

appeared to become emotional or upset, I would respond with

statements, or worse, ignore the possible underlying themes

of what was being said. I found myself avoiding the use of

questions, which as a narrative therapist would be the more

common response, in order to not elicit "more of the

story". This was often done at a conscious and deliberate

level, and often left me feeling afterwards that I had,

without intent but through the nature of the interview,

pushed these men toward territory they had not intended to

enter only to leave them standing on the edge to find their

own way back. The ethical principle of do no harm was

often in the back of my head as I went through the

interview process. In retrospect I believe it was more the

principle of justice (treat all clients equally) that was

my concern. These men were not my clients, and as such

would not be followed by me, as would be the case with true

clients. This sense of not knowing what would happen to

them was problematic for me. Although I had conversations

with a committee member and my peer debriefers, I was

unable to completely ignore a sense of pushing ethical

limits as I juggled the two roles of therapist and

researcher. Suggestions to some of these men that they

seek someone to talk with and the knowledge that the

Alachua County Crisis Center was available to serve any men

who experienced problems as a result of the interview

process did not alleviate my concerns. I found it ironic

that part of my rationale (being a therapist) for not doing

a small pilot study turned out to be one of the more

problematic issues during the study.


This chapter discussed the use of grounded theory

methodology as the design of this study. It discussed the

rationale for choice of participants and the recruitment

procedure to obtain participants. Sensitizing concepts and

the analysis of the data, including the use of memoing,

were then discussed. Steps taken to protect the


participants were reviewed. The chapter ended with a

discussion of reliability and validity, also referred to as

trustworthiness in qualitative research.


The structured interview questions used in the

interviews with the participants were designed to elicit

information regarding the men's thoughts and feelings about

fathering. Although the men did talk about their children

and the relationship with their children, they also seemed

to have another agenda. All of the men talked extensively

about the demise of the marriage and their relationship

with the mother. At times there was talk about the

marriage and the mother before I had addressed the first

question on my list. Once the questioning from the

prepared list had begun, the men often went off on tangents

that would explain their responses. The history of the

marriage, difficulties in the marriage, and the particulars

of the break up were commonly reported.

I was struck by how quickly a relationship seemed to

develop between myself and the participants. They all

showed a willingness to share their experiences, readily

telling me about affairs, alleged abuse, and the

shortcomings on their part that they believed had

contributed to the demise of the marriage. My impressions

were that some of the men had agreed to participate as a

way to tell their side of the story. One of the fathers

did state at the end of the first interview that he had

decided to return the postcard because he thought "...it

might be helpful to have someone else to talk to". A

number of the men made comments after the interview that

led me to believe the experience had been somewhat

cathartic. One father, following the second interview,

said, "(I) enjoyed talking with you...(I was) able to get

some of this stuff off my chest." He was not alone in

making comments that implied the story telling process had

been helpful.

The willingness to share so quickly made me aware of

the possible vulnerability of men at this early stage of

the divorce process, and the impact that this sense of

vulnerability may have had on the poor response rate. The

men's willingness to talk may just as easily be seen as a

need to talk. I wonder if some of the men who chose not to

participate may have felt unready, or may have felt too

strong a need to protect themselves from discussing their

experience so early in the divorce process. Again, further

research to learn more about the reactions of the men who

chose not to participate could be useful.

I also think the possibility of the men's use of the

interviews to tell their story contributed to my struggles

with the therapist/researcher role which was discussed in

chapter three. As a narrative oriented therapist, I firmly

believe that just the telling of the story can be

therapeutic. However, as mention earlier, it left me

feeling stuck in regards to helping the men deconstruct

what I perceived as harmful stories, and assisting in the

reconstruction of more positive stories.

Despite the time the men spent telling me about their

marriages and their relationships with their soon to be ex-

wives, they did talk about their children as was the intent

of the interview. The following ideas emerged from those

parts of the conversations.

Among the men that were interviewed in this study I

believe all felt a strong commitment to remain involved in

the lives of their children. The remainder of this chapter

will outline the findings which led to this believe. I

will begin this chapter by identifying the categories and

subcategories that emerged from the data analysis. Each

category will be described, with references to summarized

participant responses and verbatim participant responses to

show how the thinking that led to the properties and

categories evolved. Following this I will review some

general findings from the demographic questionnaire and the


Category Identification

The purpose of this study was to start to develop a

theory on how men's perceptions of fatherhood changed as

they went through the early stage of divorce process. In

this regard, the design of the interviews provided valuable

information. With the intent of exploring how men's

perceptions might shift, several of the questions were

designed to learn how these men defined fatherhood (e.g.,

"What makes a good father?", "What makes a bad father?",

"What is the easiest or most difficult thing about being a

father?"). These questions were followed by questions such

as "How do you think the divorce might impact this?" or

"How do you think being the nonresidential parent might

impact this?"

None of these men believed that their divorce would

change their views about fatherhood, as regards the

cognitive or affective domains. There were actually a

number of men who preempted the follow up question

regarding the impact (i.e., answered in a manner that made

the follow up question unnecessary). For example, the

question asking for them to give three words to describe

fatherhood was actually worded as "What three words would

you have used to describe a father before your divorce

became a possibility?" Several men began their answer by

saying it would be the same before and after the divorce or

possibility of divorce. One father responded to the

question by saying:

...to describe a father...see I'm...I'm gonna be
honest with you, it's not any different to me
before or after, because to me it still deals
with consistency, it deals with having a goal of
what I want her to be like, and treat people and
do, and, and I'm gonna say church because I
think that's real important. If I had three
things to put down that would be it. And even
after the divorce it's still consistency, the
church, and you know, making' sure she's
doin'...that I'm raisin' her the way I think she
should be raised...is how I look at it. And I
haven't changed that even in the divorce.

Those men who did not preempt the follow-up question

of "What three words would you use now to describe a

father?" and reported no change did so with varying degrees

of emphasis in their responses. Some of the 'softer'

responses would include phrases like "well, I'd probably

still use those same words because...", or "I don't think I

would change my words. Um, love, care and responsibility.

Yea, pretty much...".

A more emphatic response, which was delivered

enthusiastically, is illustrated by this father of two boys

who had this respond to the question of changing his three

words to describe a father after the divorce:

Oh, of course (it won't change), of course. Just
because me and their mother don't get along...
anymore...doesn't mean that's changed with the
children. Absolutely not, no.

Despite the self expressed consistency in their

beliefs about fatherhood, close analysis of the interviews

(the data) did reveal effects on their patterns of thinking

about fathering as a result of the divorce. These patterns

formed the basis for the categories that were identified.

These are discussed below.

Two primary categories emerged from the data. I have

labeled the first category separation. I also consider

this category to be the social-psychological problem

(Hutchinson, 1988). As a result of their shared common

circumstance (going through the divorce process and

becoming a nonresidential father) these men share a common

problem. The category of separation seeks to identify that

common problem. Within this category I identified two less

prominent categories. The first subcategory is men's

perceptions of the factors contributing to the separation.

The second is the effects of the separation. The first

subcategory included the following properties: a) the

divorce proper, b) the role of the mother, and c) the role

of the courts. The second subcategory is the effects of

the separation. Four properties emerged from the data that

formed this subcategory: a) missing the child/children,

b) loss of parental influence on the children,

c) displacement, and d) emotionality.

The second major category identified was labeled

coping strategies. Four properties also emerged to form

this category. These were: a) determination,

b) pursuing interaction, c) justification, and

d) accommodation. The two primary categories will now be



For these men, the question (e.g., problem) was, "How

do I maintain or increase contact with my children"? Since

all of the men involved in the study were considered the

nonresidential parent, their time with their children was

limited in comparison to pre-separation contact (when they

were a residential parent). Even those men who anticipated

or had arranged through mediation for very liberal and

generous visitation time with their children expressed

concerns about their limited contact. For these men, their

contact and time with their children was still greatly

reduced in comparison to pre-separation contact. Overall,

no matter the arrangement for visitation, the level of

conflict with the mother, or the actual time spent with the

children, these men all appeared to feel separated from

their children in contrast to before the separation from

the mother and the pending divorce.

Contributing Factors

Three properties emerged to form the subcategory

regarding factors which appeared to contribute to this

sense of separation. These were the divorce proper, the

role of the mother, and the role of the courts.

Divorce proper: The design of this study dictated that

all men participating would be nonresidential parents. It

was believed that this would assure that all participants

would have decreased physical contact with children in

comparison to their status as residential parent prior to

initiation of the divorce or separation. This proved to be

the case with the twelve men who participated in the study.

All the fathers in this study expressed strong

intentions to keep contact with their children and be a

part of their lives. They were consistent in their

behaviors and plans which indicated they were fighting, or

willing to fight, for their right to be with their

children. In the interviews a frequent topic of discussion

was the thoughts and feelings these men had as a result of

no longer living with their children on a full time basis.

The idea that these men were not comfortable in this

new part-time status is further supported by their

responses to the question "What advice would you give to

fathers who are going through a divorce and are faced with

being the nonresidential parent?" Almost all participants

responded by advocating staying involved with the children.

The comments ranged from advice to not get divorced (keep

the family together for the sake of the children) to

fighting in court for time with the children. Following is

part of the conversation I had with one participant:

Participant: My advice is, is, never...
leave your children. And what I mean by
that, even though I know they're out of the
house, but what I mean is always be part of
their lives. Just because you and their,
and the mother don't get along anymore,
doesn't mean that...you have to stay away
from your children. They're your children,
you need to take responsibility for them
too, but you need to be with 'em. But you
need to be part of the children's life, I
think that's very important.
Interviewer: Number one thing, huh?
Participant: Number one thing.

From another father came advice that was more succinct

and to the point in advising other fathers should "...Fight

for time with their kids, don't give up any time with their


Yet another father was somewhat more introspective in

his advice:

I'd advise them to look into their particular
unique situation and see...if...there's the
potential...circumstance to make them not be a
father they want. ...to kind of anticipate that
what might potentially happen, that might
prevent you from being a father.

What I inferred from the interviews was that all

of these men would prefer to be full time fathers.

This led to the property of divorce proper being

included as a factor in the separation category.

Role of the mother

The kids would love for me to come over but she
won't let me...set foot in the house.

Several of these men felt their ex wives were keeping

them from seeing their children. They described the

mothers in ways that would characterize them as gatekeeper

moms. As discussed in Chapter two, the term gatekeeper mom

refers to a mother's efforts, conscious or unconscious, to

limit a father's involvement with his children. This sense

of the mother's interfering with fathers' ability to be

with their children appeared to be related to the amount of

conflict these men had with their former partners. The

father who reported the conflict level at "25" (the scale

was 1 to 10) also reported he had not seen his children

"..in over a month". As he stated at one point:

She doesn't...she doesn't let me see them. I
mean this is...this is a nasty thing we're going
through. It's a nasty divorce...very bitter.

Another father complained that the mother would

not let him take his sons on vacation, thus depriving

them of seeing their great grandmother who was

literally on her death bed. An extreme example is that

of the mother who "pulled" the child from school and

moved to another town, unbeknownst to the father who

did not know where his son was for nearly 2 months.

Not surprisingly, some of these men were looking

forward to finalizing the divorce because they felt

they would at least get some freedom from what they

perceived as arbitrary decisions by the mothers. This

was ironic, given the concerns several of these men

had regarding the fairness of the courts.

Role of the courts

The damn legal system is making us crazy, it's
just ridiculous.

The above quote summarizes the feelings of

several of these men. Although there were varying

opinions about the impact of the court system, many of

these men felt the court contributed to their sense of

disengagement from their children as a result of what

they felt was a bias of the court to give primary

residential custody to the mother. Several of the men

said they would have wanted custody, but were afraid,

or were advised, that seeking custody would be a long,

expensive battle which they could not win. These men

seemed to share the belief that, "...it (custody)

always goes to whoever has primary custody at the time

of the divorce gets primary custody of the child.",

which for these men meant the mothers would get

custody. They also seemed to share the belief that,

"...as a father we (are at), a disadvantage in terms

of the law, and I have the impression that the

law...most of the time on the side of the mother."

Another common theme was their fear of the impact

of prolonged court battles on the children. One

father's experience incorporated both the feeling of

bias in the court and concerns about the possible

impact on his children:

It would have to be legal maneuvering and
go and fight her in court for the rotating
custody or fighting for primary custody,
but, um, I didn't want to put the kids
through that and even though the negative
feeling are there for her, I didn't feel
like it was going to be healthy for either
of us to spend all that money on attorneys
and the rest of the whole mess and it's
like, you know I just, uh, that's the only
way I felt that I could...see, I had to
make peace with the situation. I said OK,
I've got decisions to make after talking
with a whole bunch of attorneys. Everybody
pretty much told me.the same thing. You're
screwed anyways, you're a guy.

There was a lot of frustration voiced as a

result of some of the men's experiences with the

courts. A father of two boys expressed his

thoughts in this way:

Well, what I don't like is the fact that the
court doesn't consider, you know, both parents,
I mean I wanted joint, I wanted the rotating
custody 'cause I said I'm sorry, I've done
nothing wrong in this marriage. I mean I didn't
cheat on you, I didn't hit you, I didn't abuse
the kids, I didn't abuse you, ...I just felt
like that sucked, 'cause I'm still their father,
and I should have been given an opportunity to
be, you know, have rotating custody.

Despite these father's feelings regarding court

impact on time with their children, this did not

necessarily translate to the court impacting their

ability to be a father. As one father put it,

"...there's not a law that can limit me from being a


Effects of the Separation

The second subcategory under separation was the

effects of the separation. I identified four areas

where men experienced the impact of divorce. These

were: a) missing the children, b) loss of parental

influence, c) displacement, and d) emotionality (the

emotional response).

Missing the child/children: Men's reaction to missing

their children ranged from anger to a sense of sadness to

suicidal ideation. This reaction to missing their

children, or loss of time with their children was present

even for those men who had negotiated significant time with

their children. One father who reported the custody

arrangement as allowing him to have the children at least

three, and on alternate weeks four, nights a week still had

this to say:

I'm gonna miss out on things. I mean there's
gonna be things, little things that they do that
I won't even know they do. I mean, on a daily
basis, I mean they probably did some...cute or
funny or...bright things this weekend that I'll
never even know about, I'll never have seen, I
never, I...and that pisses me off.

What was often expressed as missing was the

contact these men had become accustomed to having with

their children. For one father, whose ex wife was

actively limiting his contact, the feelings were

expressed as follows:

...you know it makes me feel uncomfortable, in
that uh, I'm missing something, I'm missing, I'm
missing them 'cause I don't see them as much as
I'd like to during the school year, Uh, I used
to take them to school in the morning, so at
least I saw them everyday...

I also got the impression that missing the

children affected the men's mental health. One of the

more subtle examples of this comes from a father who

had quite limited time with his children, who said:

I miss that, that comfort that I could touch
them. Cause they're there, or I could talk to
them while they're there, and not being there,
that uh, it's horrible, just having them for

The most extreme example of the impact of

disengagement came from the father of a 6 year old

son, who had on occasion gone for several months

without any knowledge of his son's well being when the

child's mother would disappear with his son. This

father, who described his relationship with his son as

"...he's all I have, and he was my whole life.",

reported stretches of time during which he was

sleeping on average about two hours a night, and going

for a week and a half at one point without "saying

more than about three words". This same father also

expressed in our interview that he had suicidal

ideation (I proceeded to complete a lethality

assessment, also during the interview, and it was

deemed the father was at a very low lethality level).

A number of studies (Lehr & MacMillan, 2001; Wu &

Hart, 2002) have reported men's adjustment

difficulties following divorce and some of these men

appeared to have problems as a result of their

children's absence (i.e., missing the children). More

will be said about this in the section on


Loss of parental influence: For many of these men the

loss of proximity and daily contact was interpreted as a

loss of influence on how the children would develop. Some

of these concerns included educational concerns, religious

concerns and concerns about basic social behaviors like

proper table manners and respect for adults and others.

Some of the fathers perceived this as a

lack of control:

just reminding myself that, you know, that I'm
part of the boys' lives but I only can, I only
have so much control of their lives now. When
they're with their mother I have no control of
what they do. I only have control of what they
have here, and you just always have to keep
that, and remind yourself of that.

One father's concerns were related to his

awareness that his daughter was quite capable of

manipulating the situation (e.g., operating under

differing rules in the two households) to her benefit:

I can't have any influence over that over here.
You know I tell (my child) to be respectful, do
what she (the mom) says kind of stuff you know,
but you know how that goes. She's gonna play
the female, she'll play 'em, because she knows
how to do that. ...she knows that they're not
gonna be as..stubborn as I am. (The mother and
grandmother will not be as disciplined I guess
is another way to put it, so, you know, ...

Concerns for lack of consistency (e.g., rules and

punishments) were also expressed. This is not

surprising considering several of these men identified

consistency as a characteristic of good fathering

(i.e., good parenting).

And I think that (my child) needs that, cause I
don't know that she's gonna get that... all the
time. You know, if I was around her all the
time she would get it all the time, but I think
it's important...

Despite the number of examples of loss of

influence the men described, I was unable to identify

any specific responses the men had to that loss.

However, there has been work which indicates this loss

of influence, what Braver (1998) refers to as parental

disenfranchisement, can lead to fathers distancing

themselves from their children. This raises the

question of how this sense of loss of influence will

impact these men over time. Perhaps this is an area

which needs to be addressed more in the Parent

stabilization type classes. Ultimately, I believe this

is an area where future research could be helpful.

Displacement: Some of the men who participated in

this study expressed a sense of being displaced. This

was at times due to leaving the house where they once

had been a part of an intact family and a residential

co-parent, and finding their own apartment. There

were also instances where men felt a fear of being

displaced as a father when the mother had begun dating

again. One father referred to himself as a "backseat

dad" as a result of his children's mother moving her

new boyfriend into her house.

This sense of displacement also appeared to be related

to conflict levels. A father of five, who had a

particularly contentious relationship with the mother and

had not seen his children in over a month, voiced his

feelings as follows:

I can't really say that now I even feel like a
father. I feel like, I just feel like a man
who's fathered five kids. I don't feel like a
father any more.

Recent work by Catlett et al (2004) studied the

issue of men's reactions to the change in physical

space following divorce (i.e., displacement). In her

study regarding physical space, she found that men

felt disempowered as a result of no longer living

together as a family. The men in this study showed

both similarities and dissimilarities to the men in

the Catlett study.

The men in this study voiced similar concerns in

response to the change in physical space (moving out

of the home with the children). The men talked about

missing the opportunity to share bedtime with their

children, help with homework, and other day to day

activities. Men in both studies also shared some of

the same problems regarding a sense of the mother

interfering with their ability to see their children.

What appeared to be different was the response

most of the men in my study had to moving out of the

house at the time of the separation. Catlett's study

indicated men felt a significant loss as a result of

having to move. The men in my study appeared to take

the change more in stride. There was the case of one

father who felt he could not have his son stay with

him because of his roommate situation, and one father

who would stay at his parents house during overnight

visits because he felt it would be "...more familiar

and more comfortable..." for his daughter. However, a

number of the men in this study took very proactive

roles in responding to the move out of the family home

by intentionally establishing homes to share with

their children. One father showed by means of a

photograph how he had removed the door from his

daughter's bedroom in their old house and brought it

to his apartment to help ease the transition for is

daughter. Another father spoke of how his duplex was

a much safer place for his sons during the hurricanes

that came through North Central Florida in 2004. At

least two of the fathers in this study reported that

they had agreed to the mother to remaining in the pre-

divorce house as a way of stabilizing things for their

children (though one did take issue with tying up his

share of the equity in the home).

Another area where the men in this study differed

from the Catlett group regarding change of physical

space was the issue of identity and role perception.

In response to a specific question of "In what ways,

if any, has your changed role as a father impacted how

you think about yourself?", the majority of the men in

my study reported there was no change (with the one

exception being the father quoted above). These

responses are in contrast to the Catlett study where

both identity and role perception were problematic for

the fathers.

Finally, the men in Catlett's study reported a

loss of power and control. Although there appeared to

be a sense of loss of control (i.e., power) for some

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