The father–child relationship is an important factor in child development. Improving protective factors for fathers, such as access to social support, is one strategy to enhance these critical relationships. Few studies have examined parenting strategies for fathers specifically, and fewer have examined programs delivered in early childhood settings.
A quasi-experimental study of the Circle of Parents® program implemented in a Head Start/Early Head Start setting examined social support and other protective factors for 112 fathers.
Based on intent-to-treat analysis, there was no improvement in social support but fathers who participated in the program reported a significant reduction in parent–child conflict (β = −3.38; p < .01). Due to lack of compliance in treatment assignment, propensity-score adjusted models were also estimated. One model indicated positive effects for increased parenting self-efficacy (β = 5.30; p < .05). Father engagement in this mutual aid support group was challenging.
Parenting support groups offer potential benefits to fathers, but barriers to program participation limit the feasibility of broader impact.