Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Bryan E. Porter

Committee Member

Michelle L. Kelley

Committee Member

James F. Paulson

Committee Member

Holly D. Gaff


Compared to biological fathers, there is far less knowledge about stepfathers in reference to their involvement in childcare. As stepfathers continue to increase in number in the United States, it is important to understand the factors that influence a stepfather to be more or less involved in the care of their stepchildren. Few studies have examined both biological fathers and stepfathers together on multiple sets of parenting variables. Thus, the current study aims to compare biological fathers and stepfathers on a model of paternal involvement.

Participants were 306 biological fathers and 69 stepfathers. In order to participate, fathers had to have at least one child 12 years or younger living with them at least 50% of the time, as well as be married to the child's biological mother. All fathers completed an anonymous, online survey that assessed their motivation to be involved, marital quality, maternal gatekeeping, traditional parenting views (i.e., breadwinning), father identity, and paternal involvement in childcare.

It was hypothesized that breadwinning and motivation would be negatively correlated for biological fathers only; however, results showed breadwinning and motivation were negatively correlated for both types of fathers. Additionally, it was hypothesized that stepfathers’ marital quality would mediate the relationship between motivation and paternal involvement, whereas for biological fathers the mediated relationship would not be significant. This hypothesis was supported, demonstrating that instead, for biological fathers, motivation had a direct effect on involvement.

The final hypothesis stated that all five variables (i.e., motivation, marital quality, maternal gatekeeping, breadwinning, and father identity) would influence biological father and stepfather involvement in childcare differently. Although fit statistics did not meet the recommended structural equation modeling (SEM) values, parenting does appear to be different for biological fathers and stepfathers. Father identity was hypothesized to have a direct effect on fathering motivation for both types of fathers, but was found to be significant only for biological fathers. Lastly, maternal gatekeeping was expected to have a direct effect on involvement for stepfathers only. However, this was not supported, nor did gatekeeping have an effect on biological fathers’ involvement.

The results indicated that the model of paternal involvement for biological fathers was different than the model for stepfathers. Due to weak SEM fit statistics, readers should interpret these findings within the context of understanding the model is not a finished model of paternal involvement and further research is needed to confirm and expand upon these results. Perhaps a larger sample size of stepfathers would allow more stable and reliable statistical results. Additionally, there were some concerns with maternal gatekeeping, as that factor was not shown to be related to either fathers’ involvement in the hypothesized model. Nevertheless, the current study does contribute knowledge of new patterns and ways of understanding paternal involvement in childcare. It is important for future studies to replicate these results and eventually better understand what makes a father more or less involved.


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