Objective To examine the association of father early engagement behaviors and infant low birth weight (LBW) among unmarried, urban couples. Methods Participants were from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth-cohort study of urban families. We conducted cross-sectional analyses of data from interviews with unmarried mothers and fathers (N = 2726) that took place at the time of their child’s birth. Early engagement behaviors were based on fathers’ self-report of whether during the pregnancy they gave mothers money to buy things for the baby, helped in other ways like providing transportation to prenatal clinics, and attended the birth. Results Most (68.9%) fathers engaged in all three early engagement behaviors; 22% engaged in 2 behaviors; and 9.1% engaged in 1 or 0 early engagement behaviors. LBW more than doubled when comparing infants of fathers who engaged in all three early engagement behaviors (9.6% predicted probability of LBW) to those fathers who engaged in no early engagement behaviors (over 22% predicted probability of LBW). Conclusion Infant and maternal health may benefit from intervention to encourage positive father engagement during pregnancy.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Adjusted odds ratio
Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study
Low birth weight
Variance inflation factor
World Health Organization
Aizer, A., & Currie, J. (2014). The intergenerational transmission of inequality: Maternal disadvantage and health at birth. Science, 344(6186), 856–861. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1251872.
Alio, A. P., Bond, M. J., Padilla, Y. C., Heidelbaugh, J. J., Lu, M., & Parker, W. J. (2011). Addressing policy barriers to paternal involvement during pregnancy. Maternal Child Health Journal, 15(4), 425–430. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-011-0781-1.
Alio, A. P., Mbah, A. K., Grunsten, R. A., & Salihu, H. M. (2011). Teenage pregnancy and the influence of paternal involvement on fetal outcomes. Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology, 24, 404–409. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpag.2011.07.002.
Bloch, J. R., Webb, D. A., Matthews, L., Dennis, E. F., Bennett, I. M., & Culhane, J. F. (2010). Beyond marital status: The quality of the mother–father relationship and its influence on reproductive health behaviors and outcomes among unmarried low income pregnant women. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 14, 726–734.
Boardman, J. D., Powers, D. A., Padilla, Y. C., & Hummer, R. A. (2002). Low birth weight, social factors, and developmental outcomes among children in the United States. Demography, 39(2), 353–368. https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2002.0015.
Bond, M. J. (2010). The missing link in MCH: Paternal involvement in pregnancy outcomes. American Journal of Men’s Health, 4(4), 285–286. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557988310384842.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Carlson, M. J., & McLanahan, S. S. (2002). Fragile families, father involvement and public policy. In C. S. Tamis-LeMonda & N. Cabrera (Eds.), Handbook of father involvement: Multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 461–488). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Castillo, J., Welch, G., & Sarver, C. (2011). Fathering: The relationship between fathers’ residence, fathers’ sociodemographic characteristics, and father involvement. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 15, 1342–1349.
Chamberlain, C., O’Mara-Eves, A., Oliver, S., Caird, J. R., Perlen, S. M., Eades, S. J., & Thomas, J. (2013). Psychosocial interventions for supporting women to stop smoking in pregnancy. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 10, CD001055. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001055.pub4.
Coley, R. L., & Morris, J. E. (2002). Comparing father and mother reports of father involvement among low-income minority families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(4), 982–998.
Conley, D., & Bennett, N. G. (2000). Is biology destiny? Birth weight and life chances. American Sociological Review, 65(3), 458–467. https://doi.org/10.2307/2657467.
DeSalvo, K. B., Bloser, N., Reynolds, K., He, J., & Muntner, P. (2006). Mortality prediction with a single general self-rated health question. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21(3), 267–275. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.00291.x.
Dubowitz, H., Black, M. M., Cox, C. E., Kerr, M. A., Litrownik, A. J., Radhakrishna, A., Runyan, D. K. (2001). Father involvement and children’s functioning at age 6 years: A multisite study. Child Maltreatment, 6(4), 300–309.
Dunkel-Schetter, C., & Tanner, L. (2012). Anxiety, depression and stress in pregnancy: Implications for mothers, children, research, and practice. Current Opinion Psychiatry Journal, 25(2), 141–148. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283503680.
Fulda, K. G., Kurian, A. K., Balyakina, E., & Moerbe, M. M. (2014). Paternal race/ethnicity and very low birth weight. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 14, 385–389. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-014-0385-z.
Ghosh, J. K. C., Wilhelm, M. H., Dunkel-Schetter, C., Lombardi, C. A., & Ritz, B. R. (2010). Paternal support and preterm birth, and the moderation of effects of chronic stress: A study in Los Angeles County mothers. Archives Womens Mental Health, 13, 327–338. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-009-0135-9.
Gibson-Davis, C. M., Edin, K., & McLanahan, S. (2005). High hopes but even higher expectations: The retreat from marriage among low-income couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1301–1312.
Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2012). Births: Preliminary data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(5), 1–20.
Hobel, C. J., Goldstein, A., & Barrett, E. S. (2008). Psychosocial stress and pregnancy outcome. Clinical Obsterics and Gynecology, 51(2), 333–348. https://doi.org/10.1097/GRF.0b013e31816f2709.
Hux, V. J., Calov, J. M., & Roberts, J. M. (2014). Allostatic load in women with a history of low birth weight infants: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of Women’s Health, 23(12), 1039–1045. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2013.4572.
IBM Corporation. (2014). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 23.0. Armonk: IBM Corporation.
Idler, E. L., & Angel, R. J. (1990). Self-rated health and mortality in the NHANES-I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. American Journal of Public Health, 80(4), 446–452. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.80.4.446.
Idler, E. L., & Benyamini, Y. (1997). Self-rated health and mortality: A review of twenty-seven community studies. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38(1), 21–37. https://doi.org/10.2307/2955359.
Jeynes, W. H. (2014). A meta-analysis: The relationship between father involvement and student academic achievement. Urban Education, 50: 387–423
Lewin, A., Mitchell, S. J., Waters, D., Hodgkinson, S., Southammakosane, C., & Gilmore, J. (2015). The protective effects of father involvement for infants of teen mothers with depressive symptoms. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 19, 1016–1023.
Long, J. S., & Freese, J. (2005). Regression models for categorical outcomes using Stata (2nd ed.). College Station: Stata Press.
Lu, M. C., Jones, L., Bond, M. J., Wright, K., Pumpuang, M., Maidenberg, M.,.. . Rowley, D. L. (2010). Where is the F in MCH? Father involvement in African American families. Ethnicity and Disease, 20, S2-49-61.
Ma, S. (2008). Paternal race/ethnicity and birth outcomes. American Journal of Public Health, 98(12), 2285–2292. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.117127.
Malin, G. L., Morris, R. K., Riley, R., Teune, M. J., & Khan, K. S. (2014). When is birthweight at term abnormally low?A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association and predictive ability of current birthweight standards for neonatal outcomes. BJOG, 121, 515–526. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12517.
Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Curtin, S. C., & Mathews, T. J. (2015). Division of vital statistics births: Final data for 2013. National Vital Statistics Reports, 64, 1–65.
Mathews, T. J., & MacDorman, M. F. (2013). Infant mortality statistics from the 2010 period linked birth/ infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(8), 1–26.
McLanahan, S. S., Garfinkel, I., Reichman, N., Teitler, J., Carlson, M. J., & Audigier, C. N. (2003). The fragile families and child wellbeing study: Baseline national report. Princeton: Princeton University
Mikelson, K. S. (2008). He said, she said: Comparing mother and father reports of father involvement. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 613–624.
Misra, D. P., Caldwell, C., Young, A. A. Jr., & Abelson, S. (2010). Do fathers matter? Paternal contributions to birth outcomes and racial disparities. American Journal of Obsterics and Gynecology, 202(2), 99–100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2009.11.031.
Ngui, E., Cortright, A., & Blair, K. (2009). An investigation of paternity status and other factors associated with racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Maternal Child Health Journal, 13, 467–478. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-008-0383-8.
Redshaw, M., & Henderson, J. (2013). Fathers’ engagement in pregnancy and childbirth: Evidence from a national survey. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 13, 70–85. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-13-70.
Reichman, N. E., Hamilton, E. R., Hummer, R. A., & Padilla, Y. C. (2008). Racial and ethnic disparities in low birthweight among urban unmarried mothers. Maternal Child Health Journal, 12, 204–215. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-007-0240-1.
Reichman, N. E., & Teitler, J. O. (2006). Paternal age as a risk factor for low birthweight. American Journal of Public Health, 96(5), 862–866. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2005.066324.
Reichman, N. E., Teitler, J. O., Garfinkel, I., & McLanahan, S. S. (2001). Fragile families: Sample and design. Children and Youth Services Review, 23, 303–326.
Stotts, A. L., Northrup, T. F., Schmitz, J. M., Green, C., Tyson, J., Velasquez, M. M., & Hovell, M. F. (2013). Baby’s Breath II protocol development and design: A secondhand smoke exposure prevention program targeting infants discharged from a neonatal intensive care unit. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 35, 97–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cct.2013.02.012.
Tach, L., Mincy, R., & Edin, K. (2010). Parenting as a “package deal”: Relationships, fertility, and nonresident father involvement among unmarried parents. Demography, 47(1), 181–204.
Tan, H., Wen, S. W., Walker, M., & Demissie, K. (2004). Missing paternal demographics: A novel indicator for identifying high risk population of adverse pregnancy outcomes. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 4, 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-4-21.
Taylor, C. A. L., & Sarathchandra, D. (2015). Migrant selectivity or cultural buffering? Investigaing the Black immigrant health advantage in low birth weight. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-015-0194-0.
Teitler, J. O. (2001). Father involvement, child health and maternal health behavior. Children and Youth Services Review, 23(4/5), 403–425.
Viera, A. J. (2008). Odds ratios and risk ratios: What’s the difference and why does It matter? Southern Medical Journal, 101, 730–734.
Waldfogel, J., Craigie, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2010). Fragile families and child wellbeing. The Future of Children, 20(2), 87–112. https://doi.org/10.1353/foc.2010.0002.
Walsh, T. B., Tolman, R. M., Davis, R. N., Palladino, C. L., Romero, V. C., & Singh, V. (2014). Moving up the “magic moment”: Fathers’ experience of prenatal ultrasound. Fathering, 12(1), 18–37.
Walsh, T. B., Tolman, R. N., Singh, V., Davis, M. M., & Davis, R. N. (2017). Expectant fathers’ presence at prenatal ultrasounds: An opportunity for engagement. Social Work Research, 41, 181–185.
Witt, W. P., Cheng, E. R., Wisk, L. E., Litzelman, K., Chatterjee, D., Mandell, K., & Wakeel, F. (2014). Maternal stressful life events prior to conception and the impact on infant birth weight in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 104(1), S81–S89. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301544.
The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development through Grants R01HD36916, R01HD39135, and R01HD40421 and a consortium of private foundations (http://www.fragilefamilies.princeton.edu/funders.asp). The authors of this study did not obtain funding for the analyses reported herein.
Conflict of interest
The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
This study was reviewed by the University of Michigan Institutional Review Board. As secondary data analysis, this study was deemed exempt from oversight.
About this article
Cite this article
Lee, S.J., Sanchez, D.T., Grogan-Kaylor, A. et al. Father Early Engagement Behaviors and Infant Low Birth Weight. Matern Child Health J 22, 1407–1417 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-018-2521-2
- Perinatal period
- Father–child relations