SFER Review Process


To identify relevant literature, the research team used a multi-pronged strategy that included conducting a database search, checking the reference lists of existing reviews, and issuing a call for papers. We sought to include both published and unpublished research focusing on established programs as well as up-and-coming models.

We used three strategies to locate relevant studies:

  • Targeted keyword search. We conducted a search of 15 electronic databases, including Academic Search Premier, EconLit, Education Research Complete, PsycINFO, SocIndex, and Dissertation Abstracts International. We also conducted a specialized Google search of the websites of relevant organizations, including research firms, think tanks, universities, community agencies, and clearinghouses.
  • Review of reference lists. To supplement the keyword search, we checked the reference lists of past reviews of research in the area of responsible fatherhood. Relevant studies that were not identified in the keyword search were added to the list of studies to review.
  • Call for papers. A key step in identifying studies was a public call for papers, in which we requested submissions of relevant research studies not yet published or not likely to be found through the search process. The call was sent to approximately 130 contacts, including research organizations, researchers, agency staff, and listservs.

These strategies yielded over 3,000 citations. Reviewing all of them was beyond the scope of this project, so we conducted an extensive screening process and excluded any studies that:

  • Did not examine a program, practice, or policy
  • Did not include low-income fathers or low-income couples in the sample
  • Did not include any participant-level outcomes in the domains of interest (see table below)
  • Were conducted outside the United States
  • Were not written in English
  • Were published before 1990

We then prioritized the remaining studies for review. The studies with the highest priority and included in the review, focused on programs designed specifically for low-income participants. Other studies were given lower priority and may be included in subsequent SFER releases.


Area of Interest Examples
Responsible Fatherhood and Parenting
Economic self-sufficiency Employment status
Earnings or wages
Hours worked
Part- or full-time status
Financial literacy
Educational attainment
Well-being Incarceration
Drug/alcohol use
Physical health
Mental health (for example, problems with depression or anxiety)
Financial support of children Paternity establishment
Child support paid
Compliance with court orders
Other monetary or material support of children
Involvement with children and parenting Frequency of contact with children
Custodial status
Residence with children
Quality of parent-child interaction
Knowledge of developmental milestones
Inter-Parental Relationship
Co-parenting Joint decision making about issues affecting the child
Quality of co-parenting relationship
Relationship status and quality Relationship status (for example, married, romantically involved)
Residential status (co-residing part time or full time)
Length of relationship
Relationship quality
Domestic violencea Violence reported by at least one partner
Fear of partner
Injuries from partner
Child Outcomes
Child well-being Cognitive development
Social-emotional development
Physical health

[a] Although domestic violence outcomes may be included in the review, the SFER is limited to programs with a primary focus other than domestic violence.