The purpose of this study was to describe and provide a theoretical analysis of 14 first-time fathers' experiences in developing a relationship with their infants during the infants' first 2 months of life. With the use of tape-recorded, semistructured interviews, fathers described perceptions of their fathering selves, their infants, their father-infant relationships, and their wives' support. These data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. The three major categories that were operative in the initial development of the father-infant relationship were (a) making a commitment, (b) becoming connected, and (c) making room for the baby. Commitment is defined as fathers' willingness to invest in and take responsibility for nurturing the relationship with their infants despite parenting difficulties and other life pressures. The first seeds of commitment were planted when fathers expressed feelings of readiness and desire to have a baby. However, the reality of commitment took hold at different time points for fathers. Becoming connected was the basic psychological process, a process that began with the father's intense, euphoric emotions at birth, that is, if there were no complications associated with the birth experience. Because of the close mother-infant bond and breast-feeding, fathers felt connected to their infants at a distance during the first 5 weeks. The turning point in the relationship took place when fathers perceived their 2-month-old infants as more responsive, predictable, and familiar. These perceptions of their infants fueled the development of a closer connection of the father to the infant. Making room for baby consisted of fathers making changes and/or adjustments in their lives to make psychological and physical room for their infants. Fathers made adjustments in their work and social/personal time and in relationships with their wives and within themselves. The contextual factors that influenced the development of the father-infant relationship were the relationship that the men in this study had with their own fathers and the informational and emotional support they received from their wives. With an increased understanding of the father-infant relationship, nurses can provide humanistic, thoughtful care to assist fathers in developing this significant relationship.
Digital reproduction of “The father-infant relationship becoming connected.” Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library. Print version of “The father-infant relationship becoming connected.” available at J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collection. HQ5.5 1994 .A53.