Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Trace S. Kershaw


Fathers are an understudied, but important, population in sexual and reproductive health research. Involved fathers can contribute to child development and family functioning. However, little is known about the influence of paternal perceptions of family involvement, the influence of peers, and the contextual factors of peer networks that may contribute to a father's involvement with his child. This study explored the structural network characteristics (density, closeness and degree centrality) and injunctive and descriptive peer norms regarding sex, fatherhood, and other risk behaviors of 52 men in New Haven, CT. Our results show that engagement in high risk sexual behavior was associated with fatherhood involvement, with 88% of less involved fathers also engaging in high risk sexual behavior (p=.004). We also found that denser networks were positively correlated with the transmission of unfavorable peer norms like cheating on a partner or drinking or using drugs (p<.05). Favorable norms like fatherhood involvement were also significant with more involved fathers being more likely to have other involved parents in their networks (p=.049). Our findings suggest that peer networks are important to father's health and behavior and that father's behaviors may be impacted by both injunctive and descriptive peer norms. Interventions designed for men may benefit by including peers in programming and by addressing norms and norm-changing.


This is an Open Access Thesis.