Office of Epidemiology and Research, Division of Research

Advancing Applied MCH Research

Supportive Services for Expectant and New Fathers: A Study of Their Impact on Maternal Well-being

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Project Number: R40 MC 26807
Grantee: City of Minneapolis
Department/Center: Health Department
Project Date: 4/1/2014

Final Report


Principal Investigator

Patricia Harrison, PhD
Research & Program Development Director
250 S. 4th St, Room 510
Minneapolis, MN  55415-1377
Phone: 612-673-3883


  • Women/Maternal
  • Prenatal
  • Perinatal/Infancy (0-12 months)


Even though father support and involvement have been shown to be beneficial to maternal and child health and well-being, many fathers are not involved during pregnancy and early infancy. The primary aim of this research is to determine whether an intervention that provides supportive services directly to expectant/new fathers improves maternal health outcomes among women enrolled in perinatal home visiting programs. Maternal outcomes include emotional/behavioral well-being as evidenced through reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety and decreased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, and compliance with recommended, prenatal, postpartum, and well-child clinic visits. The project is relevant to all four HRSA MCHB Strategic Research Issues in that it has the potential (1) to enhance public health service systems; (2) enhance systems of care to help reduce health disparities; (3) enhance quality of care for MCH populations; and (4) promote the health of maternal and child populations as well as the well-being of fathers. A total of 132 mother-father pairs will be recruited from two community-based agencies that provide perinatal home visiting services to low-income families in Minneapolis. Based on random selection, half of the fathers will be assigned to services as usual (participation in home visits to mothers - the control group) and the other half will be assigned to usual care plus individualized supportive services for fathers provided by Father Advocates (the intervention group). The additional services will include psychosocial risk screening, referral, and follow-up to address the fathers’ needs and priorities; information related to the prenatal and postpartum periods, childbirth, infant care, and how to provide skillful support to mothers; and emotional support and mentoring in fatherhood. All of the fathers and mothers (n=264) will be interviewed by a Research Assistant at four points: enrollment into the study, 4 weeks before the due date, and 2 and 6 months after birth. These interviews will assess lack of basic needs, emotional distress, and substance use through the administration of the Prenatal/Postpartum Risk Overview (PRO) to mothers and the Brief Risk Overview (BRO) for men. The interview will also include a version of the Social Support Effectiveness Questionnaire (SSE): mothers will report perceived effectiveness of the support fathers provided; fathers will report their perceptions of the effectiveness of the support they provided; and fathers in the intervention group will also report perceived effectiveness of the support provided by their Father Advocate. Other measures for the study include father involvement and attendance at clinic and home visits. The primary study hypotheses are that, compared with controls, mothers associated with fathers in the intervention group will report significantly lower levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms and substance use and will attend a higher proportion of prenatal, postpartum, and well child visits during the study period. A secondary hypothesis is that mothers in the intervention group will perceive significantly more effective support from fathers.




Fathers, Health Disparities, Home Visiting, Mental Health & Wellbeing, Pregnancy, Postpartum, Screening, Substance Use, Prenatal Care

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