|| The Role of the Father in Child Development, Third Edition
||Michael E. Lamb
||John Wiley & Sons, Inc., ©1997
Wiley & Sons, Inc.
One Wiley Drive
Somerset, NJ 08875
This is the third edition of this 416-page book the first edition appeared
in 1976 and the second in 1981. In the intervening years there has been
a large amount of study, research, and theory development so that this third
edition has almost all new material and different concepts are advanced.
The book presents an overview of research progress and developments in understanding
more about fathers and what their relationships are with their families,
spouses, and children.
Each chapter summarizes what the recent research activity appears to suggest
in a given area. No individual research is reported in detail and studies
are presented only as citations for the summary comments the authors choose
to make. A reader who wants to know the quality and nature of the research
cited would have to look it up. The authors appear knowledgeable and to
have considerable breadth of understanding of the area they are writing
about, but the reader has to take them on faith.
The thrust of the book is to emphasize the importance and significance of
fathers while acknowledging the complexity of their influence. Whereas fathers
used to be thought to be rather peripheral, this book suggests fathers are
of great importance, even though much of their effect is indirect and not
Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are historical in nature. Chapter 1 gives the history
of the systematic study of fathers and the changes in emphasis and theoretical
shifts. Chapter 2 offers a standard review of the religious images of fathers
in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be useful primarily for those
whose background in religion is limited and who want an overall view. Chapter
3 covers the 400 years of American history. It makes an interesting point
that the first American fathers were the Native Americans, and that their
model of fatherhood was very different than that of the European colonists.
Chapter 4 deals with the context of the family within which a male is the
father. The quality of that relationship is a powerful determinant of what
happens to the children in that family. Chapter 5 relates the knowledge
gained about the level of paternal involvement in families and what has
shifted and changed and what has not. It appears that mothers remain the
primary caregivers for children even if they are employed outside of the
Chapters 6 through 9 provide information about what goes on between fathers
and children. Mothers and fathers make unique contributions to the development
of children. It also seems clear that the intact two-parent home is the
most conducive to normal child development. It is not that children in single
parent families cannot do well, but rather that a larger proportion of them
are troubled and develop behavioral and psychological problems. There is
not much known about the impact of fathers on adolescents. However, in Chapter
10 the family dynamics appear to be quite significant when the parents must
deal with a special needs child. The stress of having a special needs child
is difficult for parents to cope with adequately.
Chapter 11 discusses the effects of divorce on fathers, their children,
and the development of the children. Divorce is a catastrophe for everybody
involved. It surely does not work well for children. There is a brief discussion
of the various arrangements for custody, visitation, mediation, and shared
physical custody. The only thing that seems fairly clear is that any of
these arrangements work best when the level of conflict between the former
spouses is minimal. Chapter 12 deals with stepfathers and seems to be saying
only that it all depends on the process. Nothing is static but everything
needs to keep moving.
Young fathers are the subject of chapter 13 and gay fathers are discussed
in chapter 14. The final two chapters examine what is known about the impact
of paternal pathology and violence on the development of children. It is
not good for them.
This book is a useful summary for those who want an introductory overview
of what the study of fathers has produced to date. For those with a greater
and somewhat extensive knowledge of the area it may be slightly disappointing
although still of assistance in reviewing a broad band of study and research.
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.