Understanding Parental Self-efficacy in Fathers
Parental self-efficacy (PSE) is a cognitive construct that can be defined broadly as an individual’s appraisal of his or her competence in the parental role. Researchers interested in child developmental outcomes have highlighted the important role that PSE plays in psychosocial child adjustment. Despite its importance, the PSE construct has been understudied in men. Given the enduring gendered nature of parenting, it seems likely that fathers’ PSE may differ from mothers’ PSE in important ways. This study was the first to develop and validate a self-report scale that assesses the PSE of fathers with preschool aged children. The research was conducted in a series of three phases. In Phase 1 of the research, fathers were interviewed and invited to discuss their perceptions of their roles and responsibilities within their families. Using thematic content analysis methodology, 11 themes were identified: parenting in context, teaching, financial responsibility, general responsibility, domestic upkeep and maintenance, accessibility, discipline and self control, safety and protection, play, nurturing, and instrumental care and routines. Critical feedback from subject matter experts was sought concerning the parenting domains and parenting tasks identified. A pool of potential PSE scale items was then drafted. In Phase 2 of the research, a convenience sample of 224 Canadian fathers completed the draft items. The psychometric properties of the new Fathering Self- Efficacy Scale (FSES) were investigated. The scale was reduced to 22-items which loaded onto three distinct factors. The factors represented positive engagement, direct care and financial responsibility. In Phase 3 of the research, a new sample of 247 Canadian fathers was recruited to complete the PSE items and the associations between their responses on the new scale and other existing scales were examined. In addition, 66 spousal reports of fathering self-efficacy were also sought. The three-factor structure of the FSES replicated in Phase 3 and was found to be a superior fit to the data when compared to alternate 2-factor and 1-factor models. Statistically significant, positive associations were found between the FSES, other measures of self-efficacy and a measure of father involvement. Statistically significant negative associations were found between the FSES and measures of parenting stress and depressive symptoms. There were no statistically significant differences between spousal reports of fathering selfefficacy and fathers’ own self-report. Paternal self-efficacy was predicted by family income, general self-efficacy, domain general PSE, parenting stress and parent responsibility. Overall, the results offer initial evidence of the reliability and the construct validity of the FSES. The emergence of this new scale will be important to fathering research and can provide an important contribution to the ongoing development of therapeutic family interventions.