Parent's Relationship Quality and Father Involvement in Fragile Families. Draft.

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Carlson, M. J.
McLanahan, S. S.
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Research indicates certain qualities of the parental relationship can serve as a benchmark for the degree of involvement of unwed fathers and their children. This paper explores characteristics of parental relationships and unwed paternal involvement, as well as other causal factors that can affect the role of unwed fathers in their children's lives. The authors examined data in the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, a large longitudinal study of parental relationships, involvement, and child well-being and development. A total of 3,600 children born to unmarried parents in 20 large American cities comprise the birth cohort, and unwed parental behaviors and relationships are compared with a control group of married parents. Among the independent variables used to measure the quality of parental relationship are conflict, supportiveness, and companionship. Logistic regression models are used for each of six outcomes of paternal involvement. Across unmarried parents, those who live together experience higher levels of positive relationship quality, but lower levels of supportiveness and companionship, and higher levels of conflict, than comparative married couples. Consistent with other studies, the survey finds a strong association between positive relationship factors and paternal involvement, regardless of different variable at birth. This is especially true for companionship and supportiveness, however supportiveness is significantly more predictive of father involvement. Measures of conflict do not have consistent influence over father involvement, and different types of conflict appear to operate differently on the degree of involvement, the survey finds. Money conflicts significantly affects whether mothers wanted paternal involvement, and has a positive affect on other outcomes. Conflicts over the pregnancy are associated with lower levels of father involvement, but the finding was not significant. In four of six outcomes, conflicts over paternal alcohol and drug use is associated with lower involvement, but only significant with regard to fathers giving less money during pregnancy. 13 references, 5 tables

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