Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Nutrition

Major Professor

Katherine Kavanagh-Prochaska

Committee Members

Betsy Haughton, Marsha Spence

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Introduction of solid foods before the recommended age of 4-6 months is a common practice in the United States, and appears to be especially prevalent among infants who are enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Currently, little is known about how fathers influence early infant feeding decisions, outside of the decision to breast- or formulafeed. The purpose of this study was to explore how fathers perceive the role they play in feeding and caring for their infants. METHODS: Participants were 21 male-caregivers, who were fathers or partners of the mothers of WIC income-eligible infants residing in two rural East Tennessee counties. In-depth, audio-taped telephone interviews were completed. Interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed according to standard grounded theory procedures to identify emergent concepts. These concepts were explored and linked together to become themes. RESULTS: Three themes emerged: 1) fathers’ roles; 2) fathers’ perceptions; 3) and control. Concepts within the theme of “fathers’ roles” included physical and emotional support for both mother and infant, validation of maternal decisions, and financial support. In this study, fathers’ perceptions were primarily shaped by their own experiences, advice from those with experience, and information sought by the fathers. The theme of control appears to be the linkage between the fathers’ attempts to modify infant behavior and infants’ responses. CONCLUSIONS: A final conceptual model was created to explain the inter-related nature of the themes and may be helpful to those who work with fathers and/or families of new infants.

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