Date of Award

12-2005

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Human Ecology

Major Professor

Vey M. Nordquist

Committee Members

Brian K. Barber, Mary Jane Moran, John Orme

Abstract

The purpose of the present investigation was to explore fathers’ perceptions of family-centered practices in early intervention services and to examine how these practices influence fathers’ feelings of empowerment. Literature reviewed examined the family-centered approach to service delivery and empowerment outcomes, especially in early intervention programs. In addition, a brief discussion of fatherhood research was presented in an effort to inform potential hypotheses and discussion.

The current study was conducted as part of the Pathways to Family Empowerment Project whose purpose is to evaluate the family-centered model of service delivery in Tennessee’s Early Intervention System (TEIS). The data collected were responses of fathers to the Family-Centered Program Rating Scale (FamPRS) and the Family Empowerment Scale (FES), which were two of several measures included in questionnaires completed by mothers and fathers. These instruments were factor analyzed producing correlated dimensions of both family-centered practices and family empowerment. The relationship between family-centered practices and empowerment outcomes was examined using both correlational analyses and structural equation modeling techniques.

Results indicated that fathers perceive family-centered practices as having multiple dimensions: respectful communication, strengths-focused support, sensitive service delivery, and collaboration, and they felt that TEIS service coordinators performed each of these types of family-centered practices very well. The findings also suggested that fathers perceived empowerment as multi-faceted: competence, system advocacy, and initiative. Fathers reported they generally felt that they were competent in their ability to parent their children with special needs and in their ability to obtain services for the children. However, fathers reported that they rarely advocated for their children at either system or government levels. Finally, the results suggested that there was a significant and positive relationship between family-centered practices and empowerment, but the dimensions of family-centered practices were differentially related to the dimensions of empowerment.

The results are discussed in comparison with the findings of previous studies that generally had samples consisting largely of mothers. In addition, possible explanations of the differential relationships are discussed. Finally, future directions for research in early intervention especially with fathers and implications for TEIS and other early intervention service system are presented.

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