Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 267–274 | Cite as

Fathers’ Perceived Reasons for Their Underrepresentation in Child Health Research and Strategies to Increase Their Involvement

  • Kirsten K. DavisonEmail author
  • Jo N. Charles
  • Neha Khandpur
  • Timothy J. Nelson
From the Field


Purpose Examine fathers’ perceived reasons for their lack of inclusion in pediatric research and strategies to increase their participation. Description We conducted expert interviews with researchers and practitioners (N = 13) working with fathers to inform the development of an online survey. The survey—which measured fathers’ perceived reasons for their underrepresentation in pediatric research, recommended recruitment venues, and research personnel and study characteristics valued by fathers—was distributed online and in-person to fathers. Assessment Respondents included 303 fathers. Over 80 % of respondents reported that fathers are underrepresented in pediatric research because they have not been asked to participate. Frequently recommended recruitment venues included community sports events (52 %), social service programs (48 %) and the internet (60 %). Compared with white fathers, more non-white fathers recommended public transit (19 % vs. 10 %, p = .02), playgrounds (16 % vs. 6 %, p = .007) and barber shops (34 % vs. 14 %, p < .0001) and fewer recommended doctors’ offices (31 % vs. 43 %, p = .046) as recruitment venues. Compared with residential fathers (100 % resident with the target child), more non-residential fathers recommended social services programs (45 % vs. 63 %, p = .03) and public transit (10 % vs. 27 %, p = .001) and fewer recommended the workplace (17 % vs. 40 %, p = .002) as recruitment venues. Study brevity, perceived benefits for fathers and their families, and the credibility of the lead organization were valued by fathers. Conclusion Fathers’ participation in pediatric research may increase if researchers explicitly invite father to participate, target father-focused recruitment venues, clearly communicate the benefits of the research for fathers and their families and adopt streamlined study procedures.


Fathers Underrepresentation Recruitment strategies Pediatric research 



We would like to recognize and thank our community partners for their support and assistance in reaching fathers including (but not limited to): Massachusetts (MA) Department of Housing, MA Department of Children and Families, Cambridge Health Alliance, Boston Public Health Commission, Lynn Community Connections Coalition, Pernet Family Health Services, The Children’s Trust, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), The Fatherhood Project at MGH, Community Action Agency of Somerville Head Start, and the National Fatherhood Initiative. We would also like to recognize the fathers who completed the survey and shared their perspectives.

Author Contributions

Dr Kirsten Davison had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Study design and concept: Davison, Khandpur, Nelson. Acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data: Davison, Khandpur, Charles, Nelson. Drafting of the manuscript: Davison, Charles

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Davison, Charles, Khandpur, Nelson. Statistical analysis: Davison, Charles. Obtained funding: Davison, Khandpur, Nelson. Study supervision: Davison


All phases of this study were supported by a grant from The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (grant number 3UL1TR001102-02S1).

Role of the Funder/Sponsor

The funding source had no role in the design and conduct of the study: collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review of approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Financial Disclosure

The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


  1. Bianchi, S. (2000). Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity? Demography, 37(4), 401–414. doi: 10.1353/dem.2000.0001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Carlson, M., & McLanahan, S. (2004). Early father involvement in Fragile Families. In R. Day & M. Lamb (Eds.), Conceptualizing and measuring father involvement (pp. 241–271). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  3. Coley, R. L. (2001). (In)visible men. Emerging research on low-income, unmarried, and minority fathers. American Psychologist, 56(9), 743–753.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Davison, K. K., Gicevic, S., Aftosmes-Tobio, A., Ganter, C., Simon, C. L., Newlan, S., & Manganello, J. A. (in press). Fathers’ representation in observational studies on parenting and childhood obesity: A systematic review and content analysis of research published between 2009 and 2015. American Journal of Public Health.Google Scholar
  5. Garfield, C. F., & Isacco, A. J, I. I. I. (2012). Urban fathers’ involvement in their child’s health and healthcare. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 13(1), 32–48. doi: 10.1037/a0025696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hatchett, B. F., Holmes, K., Duran, D. A., & Davis, C. (2000). African Americans and research participation: The recruitment process. Journal of Black Studies, 30(5), 664–675. doi: 10.2307/2645875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Khandpur, N., Blaine, R. E., Fisher, J. O., & Davison, K. K. (2014). Fathers’ child feeding practices: A review of the evidence. Appetite, 78, 110–121. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.03.015.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Lamb, M. E. (2004). The role of the father in child development. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  9. Mitchell, S. J., See, H. M., Tarkow, A. K. H., Cabrera, N., McFadden, K. E., & Shannon, J. D. (2007). Conducting studies with fathers: Challenges and opportunities. Applied Developmental Science, 11(4), 239–244. doi: 10.1080/10888690701762159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Morgan, P. J., Lubans, D. R., Callister, R., Okely, A. D., Burrows, T. L., Fletcher, R., et al. (2011). The `Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids’ randomized controlled trial: efficacy of a healthy lifestyle program for overweight fathers and their children. International Journal of Obesity, 35(3), 436–447.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Panter-Brick, C., Burgess, A., Eggerman, M., McAllister, F., Pruett, K., & Leckman, J. F. (2014). Practitioner review: Engaging fathers—recommendations for a game change in parenting interventions based on a systematic review of the global evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(11), 1187–1212. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12280.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Parker, K., & Wang, W. (2013). Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family. Retrieved from Washington, D.C.:
  13. Phares, V. (1992). Where’s poppa? The relative lack of attention to the role of fathers in child and adolescent psychopathology. American Psychologist, 47(5), 656–664. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.47.5.656.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Phares, V., & Compas, B. E. (1992). The role of fathers in child and adolescent psychopathology: Make room for daddy. Psychological Bulletin, 111(3), 387–412. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.111.3.387.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Phares, V., Lopez, E., Fields, S., Kamboukos, D., & Duhig, A. M. (2005). Are fathers involved in pediatric psychology research and treatment? Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 30(8), 631–643. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsi050.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Paediatrica, 97(2), 153–158. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2007.00572.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2002). “Come on, say something, dad!”: Communication and coping in fathers of diabetic adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 27(5), 439–450. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/27.5.439.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Weiss, C., & Bailar, B. A. (2002). High response rates for low-income population in-person surveys. In M. Ver Ploeg, R. A. Moffitt, & C. F. Citro (Eds.), Studies of welfare populations: Data collection and research issues (pp. 86–104). Washington: Academy Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsten K. Davison
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jo N. Charles
    • 1
  • Neha Khandpur
    • 1
  • Timothy J. Nelson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of NutritionHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations