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April 2002Vol. 3, No. 3LONGSCAN Examines Fatherhood

The Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) ( is a consortium of research studies made up of five satellite sites and a coordinating center at the University of North Carolina. The studies operate under common by-laws and procedures, but each site is conducting its own unique research on the causes and impacts of child maltreatment. The goal of LONGSCAN is to follow the children and their families until the children are young adults, conducting assessments regularly and collecting maltreatment data from multiple sources.

Three LONGSCAN studies, released in November 2001, examined various impacts of fathers or father figures in the family environment.

The first, "The Effect of Fathers on Child Behavioral Problems in Families Referred to Child Protective Services," was conducted by the State of Washington Office of Children's Administration Research. It examined some possible effects of the presence and quality of interaction between children and fathers/father figures—defined by the mother as either a primary father in the child's life regardless of biological or nonbiological relationship, or an adult male identified by the mother as residing in the home—on children's behavior in families reported to child protective services. The findings indicated lower levels of aggression and depression in children at age 6 if an adult male in a father-like relationship was present in the child's life.

The second, "Are Father Surrogates a Risk Factor for Child Maltreatment?" found that children who had a father surrogate living at home were twice as likely to be reported for maltreatment than children with no father or a biological father in the home. Conducted by the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, the study also found that when a surrogate father maltreats a child, the mother is the one substantiated for neglect because she failed to protect her child.

The third study, "Father Involvement and Children's Functioning at Age 6 Years: A Multisite Study," examined:

  • Whether the presence of a father figure, defined as a supportive male adult, was associated with better child functioning
  • Whether children's perceptions of father figures' support were associated with better functioning
  • Whether the association was affected by the father figures' relationship to the child, the child's race, and the child's gender.

The multisite study, conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, UNC at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, San Diego State University, UNC at Chapel Hill's School of Public Health, the Office of Children's Administration Research, Seattle, and the Juvenile Protection Association, Chicago, found that a father's presence was associated with better cognitive development and increased perceived competence by the children. In addition, children who described greater father support had a greater sense of social competence and fewer depressive signs. There were no significant influences on the father figures' level of support and children's functioning based on the relationship to the child, child's race, and the child's gender.

Contact information:

Lynn Martin, MS (Coordinator)
LONGSCAN Coordinating Center
Center for Child and Family Health
3518 Westgate Dr., Suite 100
Durham, NC 27707
Phone: 919-419-3474
Fax: 919-419-9353