Supporting Father Involvement:

An Evidence Based Program

The Supporting Father Involvement/Parents as Partners program is built on research foundations brought to this project by the Cowans and the Pruetts, separately and together. Committed not only to establishing an innovative, couples-based approach to father involvement, they have published papers that present the theoretical rationale for the program as well as describe its effectiveness.

We start with a list of books by this research team that present our orientation to the task of strengthening families. We then list the studies that describe SFI/PasP and present evidence of the intervention’s effectiveness. Then, for those who want to explore the team’s approach to couple relationships more deeply, we list a number of publications that describe groups for married and separated parents of young children.

Publications

Foundational books

To understand the creation of SFI and its unique approach to increasing fathers’ positive involvement in the daily life of the family and reducing the risks of child abuse and neglect (a notoriously tenacious threat), this section outlines the publications that underpin and detail our approach. Part of the foundation for the SFI/PasP intervention was laid in the ten year landmark research into the transition from being a couple to becoming parents, as described by Carolyn and Phil Cowan in When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples (Basic Books, 1992; Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000). The other part of the foundation was Marsha Kline Pruett’s work on family transitions in separation and divorce detailed in Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce. (New York: Scribner [Fireside]) and Kyle Pruett’s longitudinal research on young child outcomes of engaged fathering (Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child, Free Press, 2000).

The Pruetts’ Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently: How it Helps Your Kids and can Strengthen Your Marriage, DaCapo, 2009) is the combined result of their interests in, and lessons learned, strengthening families both at risk and not at risk. Consulting these resources will help the reader expand and understand the roots of the theory and practice experience the Cowans and Pruetts brought to developing and evaluating this intervention.

Supporting Father Involvement/Parents as Partners studies

*Articles with an asterisk represent systematic intervention evaluations

These published papers focus specifically on the SFI/PasP program. Details of the results can be found on the Research page.

Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., & Pruett, K. D. (2007). An approach to preventing co-parenting conflict and divorce in low-income families: Strengthening couple relationships and fostering fathers’ involvement. Family Process, 46, 109-121. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2006.00195.x

Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A., Cohen, N., Pruett, M.K., & Pruett. K. (2008). Supporting fathers’ involvement with kids. In J.D. Berrick & N. Gilbert (Eds.). Raising Children: Emerging needs, modern risks, and social responses (pp. 44-80). New York: Oxford University Press.

Pruett, M. K., Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., & Pruett, K. (2009). Lessons learned from the Supporting Father Involvement study: A cross-cultural preventive intervention for low-income families with young children. Journal of Social Service Research, 35(2), 163-179. Doi:10.1080/01488370802678942

Pruett, M. K., Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., & Pruett, K. (2009). A Cross-cultural preventive intervention for low-income families with young children. Journal of Social Services Research, 35, 163-169. doi: 10.1080/01488370802678942

Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C.P., Pruett, M.K., & Pruett, K. (2009). Six barriers to father involvement and suggestions for overcoming them. National Council of Family Relations Report. Spring. F1-F4.

*Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., & Pruett, K.D., & Wong, J. (2009). Promoting fathers’ engagement with children: Preventive interventions for low-income families. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 71, 663-679. Doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00625.x

Pruett, M.K., Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A., & Pruett, K. (2009). Fathers as resources in families involved in the child welfare system. Protecting Children, 24, 54-64.

Pruett, M. K., Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., & Diamond, J. (2012). Supporting father involvement in the context of separation and divorce. In K. Kuehnle & L. M. Drozd (Eds.), Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the family court (pp. 123-151). New York: Oxford University Press. (A revision to appear in the second edition, 2016).

Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A., Pruett, M.K. & Pruett, K.D. (May-June 2013). Evaluating the impact of father involvement programming: The SFI model. Washington, DC: Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. DOI: http://www.amchp.org/AboutAMCHP/Newsletters/Pulse/May-June 2013/Pages/features.aspx

*Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K., & Gillette, P. (2014). Evaluating a couples group to enhance father Involvement in low-Income families using a benchmark comparison. Family Relations, 63(3), 356-370. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12072

Epstein, K., Pruett, M. K., Cowan, P., Cowan, C., Pradhan, L., Mah, E., & Pruett, K. (2015). More than One Way to Get There: Pathways of Change in Coparenting Conflict after a Preventive Intervention. Family Process, 54(4), 610-618. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12138

*Pruett, M.K. & Gillette, P. (May 2014). Supporting Father Involvement Program Evaluation, Government Report, Prepared for the Norlien Foundation. Calgary, Alberta, CAN.

Pruett, M.K., Robins, S., Chen, T., Honig, R., & Lane, A. (August 2014). Supporting Father Involvement (SFI) follow-up evaluation. Final Report for the Norlien Foundation. Calgary, Alberta, CAN.

Pruett, K.D., Pruett, M.K., Cowan, C.P., & Cowan, P.A. (2016) Supporting father involvement project: A value-added co-parenting program. In J. J. Ponzetti, Jr. (Ed.). Evidence-based parenting education: A global perspective (pp. 176-191). New York. Routledge.

*Pruett, M.K., Gillette, P., & Pruett, K. D. (2016). Supporting father involvement to promote co-parent, parent and child outcomes in a Canadian context. Psychology and Psychological Research International Journal, 1(1). https://medwinpublishers.com/PPRIJ/PPRIJ16000111.pdf

Pruett, M. K., Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., Pradhan, L., Robins, S., & Pruett, K. D. (2016). Supporting father involvement in the context of separation and divorce. In L. Drozd, M. Saini, & N.Olesen (Eds.), Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the family court (2nd ed., pp. 85-117). New York: Oxford University Press

Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2017). Enhancing father involvement in low‐income families: A couples group approach to preventive intervention. Child Development, 88(2), 398-407. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12744

Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K. D., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2017). Enhancing paternal engagement in a coparenting paradigm. Child Development Perspectives, 11(4), 245-250. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12239

*Casey, P., Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Draper, L., Mwamba, N., & Hewison, D. (2017). Parents as partners: A U.K. Trial of a U.S. Couples‐based parenting intervention for at‐risk low‐income families. Family Process, 56, 598-606. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12289

Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., & Pruett, K. D. (2018). Supporting Father Involvement: A father-inclusive couples group approach to parenting interventions In H. Steele & M. Steele (Eds.), Handbook of attachment-based interventions (pp.466-492). New York: Guilford.

*Kline Pruett, M., Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Gillette, P., & Pruett, K. (2019). Supporting Father Involvement: A group intervention for low-income community and child welfare referred couples. Family Relations, 68(1), 51-67. doi:10.1111/fare.12352

Pruett, M.K., Nakash, O., Welton, E. Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A., & Gillette, P. (2019). Using an initial clinical interview to assess the coparenting relationship: Preliminary examples from the Supporting Father Involvement Program. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 89(1), 38-65. DOI: 10.1080/00377317.2019.1576466.

*Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M.K., & Pruett, K. (2019). Fathers’ and mothers’ attachment styles, couple conflict, parenting quality, and children’s behavior problems: An intervention test of mediation. Attachment and Human Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616734.2019.1582600

Interventions with group components for separated couples

These studies describe a post-divorce intervention for parents.

*Pruett, M.K., Insabella, G. & Gustafson, K. (January 2005). The Collaborative Divorce Project: A court based intervention for separating parents with young children. Special issue on “Interventions in the Family Court System”, C. Depner & I. Sandler (Eds.), Family Court Review, 43(1), 38-51.doi:10.1111/j.1744-1617.2005.00006.x

*Pruett, M.K. & Barker, R. (2009). Influencing co-parenting effectiveness after divorce: What works and how it works. In Marc Schulz, Marsha Kline Pruett, Patricia Kerig & Ross Parke (Eds.), Strengthening couple relationships for optimal child development: Lessons from research and intervention (pp. 181-196). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Pruett, M.K., Ebling, R.E. & Cowan, P.A. (2011). Pathways from a U.S. co-parenting intervention to legal outcomes. International Journal of Law, Policy, and the Family, 25(1), 24-45. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/ebq015

Pruett, M.K. & Ebling, R.E. (2012). Parenting after separation (PAS): Educator’s manual. Parenting education curriculum for separating/divorcing parents. Alberta, Canada: Family Justice Services.

Pruett, M.K. & Ebling R.E. (2012). Parenting after separation (PAS): Parents’ guide and supplementary materials. Parenting education curriculum for separating/divorcing parents. Alberta, CAN: Family Justice Services.

Pruett, M.K. & Ebling, R.E. (2013). Parenting after separation for high conflict families (PAS-HC): Parent’s guide and supplementary materials. Parenting education curriculum for separating/divorcing parents. Alberta, Canada: Family Justice Services.

*Pruett, M.K. & Cornett, L. (2017). Evaluation of the University of Denver’s Center for Separating and Divorcing Families: The first out-of-court divorce option. Family Court Review, 55(3), 375-389. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12292

Schepard, A. Pruett, M.K., & Kourlis, R. (2017). The family law bar, the interdisciplinary Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families, and the “spark to kindle the white flame of progress”. Special Issue of Family Court Review, 55(1), 84-96. https://doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12264

Schepard, A., Pruett, M.K., & Kourlis, R.L. (2018). If we build it, they might come: Bridging the implementation gap between ADR services and separating and divorcing families. Harvard Negotiation Law Review (Fall, 24), 25-81.

Couples group intervention studies

These papers describe group-based interventions for couples who are parents of young children. They represent precursors to the creation of SFI/PasP.

*Cowan, C.P., & Cowan, P.A. (1992). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. New York: Basic Books. Paperback edition: 1993; Translations: German: Piper Press, Munich, 1993. Spanish: Javier Vergara Editore, Argentina, Buenos Aires, 1993. Chinese: Yuan-Liou Publishing, Taiwan, 1994. French: J’ai Lu, Paris, 1994. Italian: Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milan, 1997. Republished in 2000 with a new forward by John M. Gottman and a new Afterword by the authors. Mattwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

*Cowan, C.P., Cowan, P.A., Heming, G., Garrett, E.T., Coysh, W.S., Curtis- Boles, H., & Boles, A.J. (1985). Transitions to parenthood: His, hers, and theirs. Journal of Family Issues, 6, 451-481.

Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P.A. (1995). Interventions to ease the transition to parenthood: Why they are needed and what they can do. Family Relations, 4(4), 412-424.

*Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., & Heming, G. (2005). Two variations of a preventive intervention for couples: Effects on parents and children during the transition to school. In P. Cowan, C. P. Cowan, J. Ablow, V.K. Johnson and J. R. Measelle, (Eds.). The family context of parenting in children’s adaptation to elementary school. (pp. 277-312). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

*Schulz, M. S., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2006). Promoting healthy beginnings: A randomized controlled trial of a preventive intervention to preserve marital quality during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 20-31. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.74.1.20

*Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., & Barry, J. (2011). Couples’ groups for parents of preschoolers: Ten-year outcomes of a randomized trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(2). doi: 10.1037/a0023003

Couples group interventions: Research reviews, theory, and policy

These papers summarize the literature on couple relationship education and father involvement

Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., & Knox, V. (2010). Marriage and fatherhood programs. Future of Children, 20, 205-230. doi: 10.1353/foc.2010.0000

Knox, V., Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., & Bildner, E. (2011). Policies that strengthen fatherhood and family relationships: What do we know and what do we need to know? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 635, 216-239. doi: 10.1177/0002716210394769

Holmes, E. K., Cowan, P.C., Cowan, C.P., Hawkins, A. (2013). Marriage, fatherhood, and parenting programming (2nd ed.). In N. J. Cabrera & C. S. Tamis-LeMonda (Ed.), Handbook of father involvement: Mulitidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 438-454). New York: Routledge.

Hawkins, A. J., Stanley, S. M., Cowan, P. A., Fincham, F., Beach, S. R. H., Cowan, C. P., Rhoades, G., Markman, H. J., & Dair, A. P. (2013). A more optimistic perspective on government-supported marriage and relationship education programs for lower income couples. American Psychologist, 68, 110-112. doi:10.1037/a0031792.

Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (2014). Controversies in couple relationship education (CRE): Overlooked evidence and implications for research and policy. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(4), 361-383. doi:10.1037/law0000025

Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C.P., Pruett, M.K. & Pruett, K.D. (2017). An attachment-informed couple intervention: A review of the evidence base from independent studies in California and England. In H.S. Steele & M. Steele (Eds.), Handbook of attachment-based interventions (pp. 466-492). New York, NY: Guilford.

Cowan, C. P. & Cowan, P. A., (2019). Enhancing parenting effectiveness, fathers’ involvement, couple relationship quality, and children’s development: Breaking down silos in family policy-making and service-delivery. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 11, 92-111. doi:10.1111/jftr.1230

Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. Breaking down silos with systemically-oriented preventative interventions: Implications for family policy. (in press). In K.S. Wampler (Ed.), Handbook of systemic family therapy, Vol. 2. L.M. McWay Associate Ed.

Pruett, K.D. & Pruett, M.K. (2020). Engaging fathers of young children in low income families to improve child and family outcomes; An intervention and prevention perspective. In H.E. Fitzgerald, K. von Klitzing, N. Cabrera, T. Skjothaug, & J. Scarano de Mendonca. Handbook of Fathers: Prenatal to Preschool (pp. 627-638). New York, Springer Press.

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