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  1. Fathers have the ability and the responsibility to choose to be involved and responsible fathers and most fathers have strong desires to be good fathers.
  2. Good fathering emphasizes meeting the needs of the next generation more than responding to societal expectations or changing social roles.
  3. Good fathering is hard work and, from the perspective of the father, the mother of his children, his children, and their community, it is the most important kind of work men do.
  4. Fathers' needs and children's needs often correspond and generative fathering is consistent with healthy mens' development.
  5. The needs of the next generation are grounded in the challenges and opportunities of the human and family conditions.
  6. Generative fathering is an ethical response to the needs of the next generation.
  7. Men bring varied abilities, interests, and strengths to their fathering and can and do grow into their fathering.
  8. Fathering (as does all human activity) takes place in a context of constraints and challenges.
  9. Most of the needs of the next generation can be met by either mothers or fathers or by mothers and fathers together, yet some needs may be met only by mothers or only by fathers.
  1. The first challenge of the human condition is dependency which includes two dimensions: vulnerability and uncertainty. While always present as a challenge of the human condition, dependency and its attendant needs is center stage as a crucial developmental issue during infancy when Erikson's trust vs. mistrust crisis occurs. Of course, dependency also becomes an issue at times of crisis, loss, and pain throughout the life span. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from dependency include security and continuity. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called ethical work. Ethical work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to commit (to pledge to ensure the child's well-being) and to continue (to be an enduring presence in the child's life). The desired result of ethical work is involved fathers and secure children. Ethical work leading to involved fathers thus becomes the foundation and sine qua non of responsible fathering. Much research has found that frequently if a strong commitment to the child and early paternal involvement does not occur, fathers rarely sustain meaningful long-term involvement and support for the child (Doherty et al., 1996). Secure children are better prepared to deal successfully with the next challenge of the human condition--scarcity.
  2. The second challenge of the human condition is scarcity which includes two dimensions: necessities and aspirations. Necessities include the material needs of life and aspirations include the desire for more personal achievement and the need to learn to set and accomplish goals. While always present as a challenge of the human condition, scarcity and its attendant needs is center stage as a crucial developmental issue during early childhood when Erikson's autonomy vs. shame/doubt crisis occurs. Of course, resources and opportunities are also critically important during adolescence, although at this stage the teen often is able to contribute resources through work and may now know better how to make opportunities happen. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from scarcity include resources and opportunities. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called stewardship work. Stewardship work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to consecrate (to dedicate material resources to the child) and to create (to provide possibilities for the child to achieve). The desired result of stewardship work is responsible fathers and confident children who assume they will continue to have sufficient resources to meet their needs and opportunities to achieve their aspirations. If fathers do not adequately provide for the needs and wants of their children over the life span, the result is often poverty and discouragement for the child. Secure and confident children are better prepared to deal successfully with the next challenge of the human condition--change.
  3. The third challenge of the human condition is change which includes two dimensions: development (gradual normative change) and transformation (sudden and/or dramatic change). While always present as a challenge of the human condition, change and its attendant needs is center stage as a crucial developmental issue during the play age when Erikson's initiative vs. guilt crisis occurs and the child is forming basic beliefs about whether or not they have the ability to handle and initiate changes in their environment. Another critical time change becomes important is during adolescence. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from change include attention and accommodation. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called development work. Development work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to care (to respond to their child's needs and wants) and to change (to adapt in response to their child's needs). The desired result of development work is responsive fathers and purposeful children who believe they will be able to continue to receive attention and initiate desired changes in their world. Secure, confident, and purposeful children are better prepared to deal successfully with the next challenge of the human condition--stress.
  4. The fourth challenge of the human condition is stress which includes two dimensions: tension and demands. While always present as a challenge of the human condition, stress and its attendant needs is center stage as a crucial developmental issue during school age when Erikson's industry vs. Inferiority crisis arises and the child is dealing with the tensions and demands of school, peer relations, and familial dynamics. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from stress include relaxation and capabilities. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called recreation work. Recreation work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to cooperate (to relax and play together on the child's level) and to challenge (to extend the child's skills and coping abilities). The desired result of recreation work is playful fathers and joyful children who enjoy life and know how to relieve stress through recreation, and who have been challenged to develop competencies that will help them face the demands of life. Secure, confident, purposeful, and joyful children are better prepared to deal successfully with the next challenge of the human condition--perplexity.
  5. But first, a note on the term, "recreation work." Many may question the logic of the seeming oxymoron "recreation work." They may argue that working at play may not relieve stress and that, for many people, linking play with work so closely "takes the fun out of recreation." Those points are granted. However, in our framework, work does not have the connotations often associated with work (drudgery, oppression, boredom, etc.) but rather includes the sense of calling, purpose, sustained effort, and also an element of joy (Dollahite, et al., 1997). And meaningful recreation (rejuvenation, renewal, and relaxation) is not always or necessarily "fun" in the sense of being light and amusing. Even so, sustaining appropriate, enjoyable, affordable, safe, and challenging recreational activities for a child (much less more than one and usually their peers at some point) over the life span is hard work. For many people, fun does not necessarily come naturally and easily and they have to work at taking time away from other types of work, or try to bring humor and play into their parenting. Many fathers (and mothers) need to work at winding down from their serious and stressful jobs to have fun with their children. Some fathers have to work at resisting the urge to over-correct while teaching a child a game or work at avoiding being sarcastic or otherwise insensitive in their humor. Others have to work at getting down at the child's level and playing what they want to play. Some must work to "lighten up" when they are trying to teach beliefs and behaviors very important to the father. Sustaining an appropriately playful relationship with certain aged children (teens) or with children with certain temperaments (e.g., sober, serious, sensitive) may require some real effort. Most people find that many kinds of child-desired vacations are as much work as fun for the parents, yet they are still recreational and important in building strong family ties. Many fathers find it helpful to combine fun with working around the house and yard with their children and so are doing recreation work. Also, another part of recreation work is playfully challenging one's child in ways that they will enjoy learning new competencies and it is often hard work to come up with activities that are age appropriate, fun but not "stupid" from an older child's perspective, challenging but not discouraging, and to avoid the bane of many father/child recreational/athletic activities--damaging competition (e.g., The Great Santini "playing" basketball with his son).

  6. The fifth challenge of the human condition is perplexity which includes two dimensions: apprehension and confusion. While always present as a challenge of the human condition, perplexity and its attendant needs is center stage as a crucial developmental issue during adolescence when Erikson's identity vs. confusion crisis arises and teenagers are struggling with a variety of types of confusion (roles, relationships, directions, values, beliefs, boundaries, etc.). In fact, part of the reason there is such perplexity for adolescents is that this is a time when all of the human challenges and needs seem to intensify within the teen and there is great apprehension and confusion in making the transition/transformation from child to adult. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from perplexity include encouragement and guidance. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called spiritual work. Spiritual work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to confirm (to affirm his belief and confidence in the child) and to counsel (to guide, teach, advise, and inspire the child). The use of the term spiritual work here does not necessarily imply religious belief or practice, but does suggest a strong, deep nurturing and guiding connection between father and child in ways that the child can obtain some meaning and direction and come experience some degree of peace about their life and future. Nonetheless, religious beliefs and practices often can be helpful in facilitating generative spiritual work (Dollahite, et al., in press). The desired result of spiritual work is faithful fathers and peaceful children. Secure, confident, purposeful, joyful, and peaceful children are better prepared to deal successfully with the next challenge of the human condition--isolation.
  7. The sixth challenge of the human condition is isolation which includes two dimensions: aloneness (social isolation--"I'm alone") and misunderstanding (emotional/intellectual isolation--"no one understands me"). While always present as a challenge of the human condition, isolation and its attendant needs is center stage as a crucial developmental issue during young adulthood when Erikson's intimacy vs. isolation crisis occurs and the young adult is making choices about long-term relationships. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from isolation include intimacy and empathy. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called relational work. Relational work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to commune (to share love, thoughts, and feelings with their child) and to comfort (to express empathy and understanding with the child). The desired result of relational work is loving fathers and caring children. Relationship work involves not only maintaining loving relationship with the child but also facilitating the child's relationships with other family and community members, especially the child's mother, siblings, and grandparents. Secure, confident, purposeful, joyful, peaceful, and caring children are usually better prepared to deal successfully with the next challenge of the human condition--obligation.
  8. The seventh challenge of the human condition is obligation which includes two dimensions: complexities and burdens. While always present as a challenge of the human condition, obligation and its attendant needs play a minor role in childhood, emerges as a real issue in adolescence, plays a major role in young adulthood, and takes center stage as a crucial developmental issue during middle adulthood when Erikson's generativity vs. self-absorption crisis is a crucial developmental issue and people are faced with the complexities and burdens of adult responsibilities. This life span approach to fathering emphasizes the important work many fathers do to support and encourage their adult children in their own generative work. The attendant needs of the next generation arising from obligation include wisdom and support. The type of generative work needed from fathers to meet these needs is called mentoring work. Mentoring work consists of the fathers ability and responsibility to consult (to impart ideas and stories when asked) and to contribute (sustain and support generative work of one's children). The desired result of mentoring work is generative fathers and generative children.