Incarceration and Paternal Involvement Among Non-Resident White, African American and Latino Fathers.

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Raymond R. Swisher
Maureen R. Waller
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This paper examines the consequences of incarceration for non-resident White, Latino, and African American fathers' contact with children and their formal and informal child support agreements three years after the child's birth. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, fathers' current incarceration is found to present serious obstacles to maintaining contact with children, as well as to interfere with the establishment of informal but not formal financial support agreements with mothers. The effects of past incarceration, however, vary significantly by race and ethnicity. Fathers' recent and past incarceration is found to be strongly and negatively associated with the frequency of contact among non-Latino White fathers, while having little to no effect on contact for African American and Latino fathers. As African American and Latino families have been disproportionately affected by policies associated with mass incarceration, we speculate that they may attach less stigma to fathers' incarceration than White families, perceive the criminal justice system as unjust, or exhibit greater resilience. Contributing to this interpretation is the additional finding that incarceration does little to undermine mothers' trust of African American and Latino fathers, whereas it strongly erodes trust of White fathers. Implications for incarceration and family policy are discussed. (Author abstract)

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