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Science of Fatherhood

The field of child development has a long history of examining the important role of mothers in the care of children and the significance of the early attachment bond between mother and infant. There is no question that children’s early brain development, social and emotional well-being, language acquisition, and cognitive understanding are related to the quality of the mother-child relationship. Yet, children grow up in families and mothers often are not raising children alone. Fathers, more often than not, are present and active in the care of their children. Children also form deep emotional attachments to their fathers, as they do with their mothers, and benefit from these loving relationships. In 1975, Michael Lamb published a paper acknowledging that fathers were the forgotten contributors to children’s development and argued that not only are fathers critically important to childhood socialization, but that fathers may make unique contributions to children’s social development. Fathers: Forgotten Contributors to Child Development. Four decades later, how society defines fathering,  how men themselves view fathering, and the variability in fathering has changed drastically, but researchers interested in parenting rely almost exclusively on information obtained from mothers, and as a result, fathers continue to be the silent, if not forgotten, contributors to their children’s development. Fathers matter to their children, whether through their presence or their absence. At the Center for Human Growth and Development, we are building a community of scholars devoted to the science of fatherhood.

Brenda L. Volling, Ph.D. Director and Research Professor, Center for Human Growth and Development
My research focuses on the role of fathers for young children’s social and emotional development, father-infant attachment, how men’s personality and partner relationships predict their fathering and the hormonal basis of fathering. My current research has focused on the supportive role of fathers for their firstborn children after the birth of the second child and how the older …  more

Katherine Rosenblum, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Psychiatry
Our research interest with fathers centers particularly around the experience of fathering as a military service member or veteran, especially with respect to the often numerous separations from their children that occur as part of their service. These separations can cause disruption in a father’s relationship with his child(ren), and these challenges can more intensely arise upon the reintegration process that happens after a prolonged … more

Maria Muzik, M.D. Assistant Professor, Psychiatry
We are utilizing focus groups and interview methodology to elicit information on needs, barriers, and facilitators to program development, implementation and uptake of a fatherhood program in Detroit, Michigan. Data collected from key stakeholders including Medicaid eligible fathers and their family members who reside in Wayne County, service providers, community leaders,program developers and researchers in this field will be used to …more

Shawna J. Lee, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Social Work
Building Community Capacity to Implement Multi-Level Parenting Support for Fathers project. This project is funded by a grant from MICHR CURES. Our research team is conducting a community-based participatory research (CBPR) informed needs assessment of programs, services, and support systems for fathers in the City of Detroit,, by interviewing service providers on how they engage men in services and conducting community … more

Robin Edelstein, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychology
I am a social/personality psychologist who studies individual differences in emotional, physiological, and close relationship processes. I focus on both romantic and parent-child relationships in my work, and most recently I have been investigating the physiological implications of the transition to first-time parenthood. I am especially interested in hormone changes that occur in both mothers and fathers during this transition, and how …more

James E. Swain, M.D. Ph.D. F.R.C.P.C. Assistant Professor, Psychiatry
I am interested in the brain basis of fatherhood. We are using baby cry and picture stimuli from their own infants in brain imaging experiments to target brain physiology at multiple time points that governs paternal thoughts, behaviors and moods. Our early work demonstrated that father  …more

Richard M. Tolman, Ph.D. Professor of Social Work
Pregnancy and the time following the birth of a child are high risk times for abuse by men, both towards children and partners. We want to better understand how men experience the transition to fatherhood and to explore how we might better engage them and support their motivation to become positive parents and partners. One particularly promising promising moment might be at prenatal ultrasound visits, which is an experience many men find …more

Matthew Stevenson Ph.D. Research Fellow, Psychology
I am interested in father-child activation theory and the vulnerability of fathering to marital conflict. I recently found  that “activative” fathering, or fathering characterized by highly stimulating and exciting interactions, is uniquely related to improved self-regulation in young children. I am currently developing a behavioral coding system for activative parenting during a parent-child toy teaching task. Recently, I found that parent self-efficacy …more

Patty X. Kuo, M.S. Ph.D. candidate, Developmental Psychology
My research on fathers examines biopsychosocial determinants of fathering behavior in families with young children and infants. In my graduate work, I’ve examined the roles of hormones in paternal behavior, fathers’ coparenting perceptions and behaviors, and the contribution of media to first-time parents’ beliefs …more