The Evidence Portal

Supporting Father Involvement

About the program

The Supporting Father Involvement (SFI) program is a group intervention for fathers or co-parenting couples in low-income families. The program is designed to:

  • increase the quantity and quality of fathers’ involvement with their children
  • strengthen the relationship between fathers and their co-parenting partners

It is based on the theory that conflict between parents is strongly associated with negative parent–child relationships and problematic behaviour in children and adolescents. Central to the design of the program is the understanding that father involvement and co-parenting is central to child well-being.

The SFI program focuses on child outcomes associated with risk and protective factors in five aspects of family life:

  • individual
  • couple
  • parenting
  • three-generational
  • external stress and support domains

These factors make up the programs structure and content. The SFI approach emphasises the role of fathers as positive contributors in the family. The SFI group approach simultaneously draws on group leaders’ expertise and creates a supportive community through participants sharing their experiences.

Who does it work for?

The SFI program is aimed at primarily low-income couples or fathers.

The program has only been tested in the USA (Pruett et al. 2019).

A randomised control trial was conducted with 162 couples (120 couples were in the intervention group and 42 couples were in the control group). On average, mothers were 29 years old, fathers were 31 years old, and children were 3 years old. Most couples were Hispanic, followed by Caucasian, and were low income families.

The SFI program has not been studied in Australia or with Aboriginal Australians.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

  • Inter-parental relationships: parents have reported decreased general conflicts, conflicts about parenting, and violent problem solving after completing the SFI program. 
  • Child abuse potential: harsh and anxious parenting is reduced in couples who complete the SFI program, due to decreased couple conflicts.

No effect:

  • Non non-significant effects were found.

Negative outcomes:

  • No negative effects were found.

How effective is it?

Overall, the SFI intervention has positive effects on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Promising research evidence:

  • At least one high-quality randomised controlled trial (RCT)/quasi-experimental design (QED) study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • Fewer RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects.

How is it implemented?

The SFI program is held over a 16-week period, with weekly 2-hour sessions. It consists of either just groups of fathers or co-parenting couples. There are generally 8-10 fathers to a group, and 4-6 couples to a group.

Each session includes a combination of educational material, exercises, videos, and discussions in various formats (i.e., large group, small group, couples or co-parents, individuals). The groups are led by clinically trained male–female pairs. An SFI case manager refers families to other community services as needed and supports the family’s retention in the program through ongoing contact. Onsite childcare and family meals help support parents’ consistent attendance.

In two of the weeks, mothers and fathers meet separately. Fathers bring their youngest child for a play session to highlight the men’s parenting ideas and experiences without the women present. At the same time, mothers meet to share their experience of encouraging fathers’ parenting while honoring their parenting ideas and attending to their health and well-being as individuals.

For a more detailed discussion of SFI content and program components visit the website at:

How much does it cost?

Not reported

What else should I consider?

Couples with intimate partner violence: There is controversy that exists surrounding a couple’s systems approach to treatment when intimate partner violence or child abuse has been identified. Careful monitoring for safety concerns can ensure supported couples work on communication issues, negative attributions, and self-control of aggression.

Where does the evidence come from?

One Randomised Controlled Trial conducted in the USA, involving 162 couples (Pruett et al. 2019).

Further resources

The SFI website:

Pruett et al. (2019), ‘Supporting Father Involvement: An Intervention With Community and Child Welfare–Referred Couples’, Family Relations, Vol. 68, No.1, pp. 51-67.

Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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