An examination of data from several large surveys of Australian families and child support records suggests unwed noncustodial fathers are significantly less involved as parents to their children than are divorced fathers without custody. Although almost one-third of children in Australia are born out of wedlock, no longitudinal survey data is available on characteristics of unwed noncustodial Australian fathers, or their role in their children's lives. As a result, any social policy directed at children of unwed parents must be developed without a baseline for future comparison studies, the authors note. Secondary analysis of existing demographic data show the number of children born out of wedlock in Australia increased from an average of 4 percent in 1954 to almost 29 percent in 1998. While the number of unmarried teen mothers fell from 39.2 percent in 1971 to 15.1 percent in 1998, more than half of the 70,600 out of wedlock births in 1998 were to mothers between the ages of 20 and 30 years. The authors' analysis of paternal behavior from other surveys shows only 38 percent of unwed mothers receive formal child support, and 28 percent receive support of any kind from fathers. Although the proportion of children seeing their noncustodial fathers at least monthly was similar between unwed and divorced fathers, children of never-married mothers were less likely see ever their fathers, with around 37 percent seeing them once a year or never. The survey also reviews other personal characteristics of unwed fathers, their attitudes toward paying child support, and their influence in their children's lives, as well as their concerns about these and other parenting issues that can be extrapolated from existing surveys. Numerous references, 6 tables.
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