Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Humberto Fabelo


Literature related to fathers and child physical abuse and neglect is lacking (Guterman & Lee, 2005; Lee, Bellamy, & Guterman, 2009). The purpose of this study was to better understand several pertinent aspects of fathering related to maltreatment. Three research questions were examined: 1.What are the attitudes, behaviors and contexts of fathers who have abused or neglected a child that relate to maltreatment? 2. What are the resources and capacities of these fathers which could be capitalized on? 3. How does goodness-of-fit or a poor fit between the father and child impact the parenting relationships of these fathers? Fifteen fathers in a parenting program for parents who are at high risk or who have abused or neglected a child participated in the study. In order to answer these questions, a traditional grounded theory methodology was used. Data analysis consisted of thematic analysis and constant comparative analysis. Based on data collected, a substantive theory entitled Fathering in a Context of Challenge and Complexity was developed. Results suggest that these fathers experience many challenges, but also have important strengths. Becoming a father was an important turning point for many of the fathers in this study. Fathers’ relationships with his children’s mothers, the need for social support, and the theme of change were all relevant. Implications for practice, policy, and research are discussed.


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