Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Grych, John H.

Second Advisor

De St. Aubin, Ed

Third Advisor

Saunders, Stephen


The role of the father in children's development historically has been neglected. Studies examining family processes were primarily limited to mothers, under the assumption that mothers' influences encapsulated what (little) effects could also be attributed to the father. Although theory and research have begun to address fathers' roles in families in earnest, there is still much work to be done, particularly in regard to understanding the determinants of father involvement. One direction that has received attention from researchers is towards a conceptualization of environmental and contextual influences on fathers' interactions with their families. The goal of this study was to examine the influences of religion and spirituality on fathers' roles in the family system.

In this study, 174 fathers and their children ages 8-14 completed a battery of measures. Fathers reported on their personality, marriage quality, spiritual and religious lives, and involvement in parenting. Children also reported on fathers' involvement, marital conflict, and father-child attachment. Analyses were conducted to examine the extent to which more specific measures of spirituality (e.g., sanctification of parenting, religious coping) predicted father-child relations relative to global measures of religion (e.g., nominal measures of attendance, or one-item ratings of religiosity). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine the relationships among fathers' personality, marriage quality, spirituality, father involvement, and father-child attachment. Results indicated that more specific measures tended to be better predictors of father-child relationships. However, spirituality was not found to predict father involvement or father-child attachment when marriage quality and fathers' personality were included in the model. The latter two constructs predicted both involvement and attachment, with spirituality as a covariate of marriage quality and personality. Therefore, spirituality may play a role in shaping marital quality and/or encouraging the manifestation of certain adaptive aspects of personality. Future research is called for that examines temporal relationships among these predictors. Further examination of how fathers' religious and spiritual lives are associated with their children's development will provide insight into how schools, churches, and families can best work to ultimately encourage positive family functioning.