Limited Father Involvement: Which Families Are Most at Risk?

Page Count
Year Published
Author (Individual)
Wood, Robert G.
Covington, Reginald.
Author (Organization)
Mathematica Policy Research.
Resource Type
Resource Format
Healthy marriage relationship skills education programs serving unmarried parents aim to help these couples improve their relationships, with the ultimate aim of supporting family stability and promoting child well-being. A central goal of these programs is to promote fathers' sustained, active engagement in their children's lives. Data from Mathematica's evaluation of the Building Strong Families (BSF) program allow us to deter-mine which families that enrolled in a set of healthy marriage programs were at greatest risk of having fathers with very limited involvement with their young children. We find that the following risk factors are associated with fathers having little or no contact with their children three years after entering the program: below average couple relationship quality at program entry, the father's having a child from a previous relationship, and the father's having grown up without his own father present. In addition, fathers who showed signs of psychological distress when entering the program had the greatest risk of having little contact with their children three years later. Future healthy marriage programs serving unmarried parents may want to consider additional mental health services for at-risk fathers, as well as tailored or more intensive supports for couples with multiple risk factors. (Author abstract)

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