Fragile Families, Father Involvement and Public Policy.

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Year Published
Author (Individual)
Carlson, M. J.
McLanahan, S. S.
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The increase in the number of children being born to unmarried parents present a number of social policy issues for strengthening the involvement of unwed fathers with their children. This working paper examines trends in out-of-wedlock childbearing, the influence of fathers in child development, and how social policies such as welfare, child support, and fathering programs affect unwed fathers and their family involvement. The authors discuss a number of studies that have found paternal involvement to be associated with better emotional, behavioral, and developmental outcomes in children, as well as better economic conditions for families, regardless of marital status. The impact of legislation affecting fathers and families with unmarried parents are detailed, notably family reliance on economic welfare programs and the negative and positive effects of child support enforcement policy. Both public and private support is needed to ensure that unmarried parents raise their children together. Because most unmarried parents express the desire to be married, and evidence that children benefit most if both biological parents are involved in their upbringing, social policies that would strengthen such families can b expected to have broad bipartisan support, the paper concludes. However for new fatherhood initiatives to succeed, programs will have to work together with welfare and child support provisions of existing family laws, especially those in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families act (TANF). Numerous references, 1 figure, 3 tables.

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