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The Nature and Impact of Arab Father Involvement in the United Arab Emirates

In the Arab World, and in the Gulf in particular, the father has traditionally occupied a unique and integral place, both in his own family and in his wider kinship networks. While much has been written about the role and function of the patriarchy in the Middle East, most of this has been negative, in particular with relation to the impact on women and children. Most of this research has also been qualitative in nature, relying on small sample sizes that make it difficult to extrapolate findings to the general population. As such, information on Arab fathers living in the Gulf and the impact of their lives on their children remains limited. In an effort to address the gap in the literature, this paper uses data from a pilot study1 of 61 Arabs (both expatriates and Emiratis living in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates) to explore the nature and impact of Arab father involvement in their children’s lives. The study finds that Arab fathers score highly on their role as good providers, in terms of the nature of their involvement with their children, but low in regards to their responsible paternal engagement, which refers to father involvement in the child’s education and related activities. It was also found that the more positively involved a father has been in his child’s life, the higher the child’s self- esteem tends to be, consistent with Western literature on self-esteem. Future research aims to examine a much larger sample from across the Arab world to explore issues relating to gender, education, and career trajectory.

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