The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the black family was nearing "complete breakdown" due to high rates of out-of-wedlock childbearing. In subsequent decades, nonmarital childbearing rose dramatically for all racial groups and unwed fathers were often portrayed as being absent from their children's lives. The authors examine contemporary nonmarital father involvement using quantitative evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and qualitative evidence from in-depth interviews with 150 unmarried fathers. The authors find that father involvement drops sharply after parents' relationships end, especially when they enter subsequent relationships and have children with new partners. These declines are less dramatic for African American fathers, suggesting that fathers' roles outside of conjugal relationships may be more strongly institutionalized in the black community. The challenges Moynihan described among black families some forty years ago now extend to a significant minority of all American children. (Author abstract)
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