Unmarried But Not Absent : Fathers' Involvement With Children After a Nonmarital Birth.

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Author (Individual)
Carlson, Marcia.
McLanahan, Sara.
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne.
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We use new data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study in twenty large U.S. cities, to investigate the level and predictors of fathers' involvement with children approximately three years after a nonmarital birth (N=3,009). We examine the frequency of fathers' spending time with their child, their engagement in various father-child activities, and their help toward the mother with household and child-related tasks. We explore differences in fathers' involvement by parents' relationship status at birth, defined as cohabiting (n=1,449), visiting (romantically involved but living apart, n=1,056), and not romantically involved (n=504). We find that three-fourths of unwed fathers have seen their three-year-old child at least once in the previous month, while one quarter of fathers no longer have regular contact with their child. Parents' relationship status at the time of the child's birth is a key predictor of subsequent involvement: fathers in cohabiting unions are much more likely to be involved in their child's life three years later than other unmarried fathers. Parents' relationship quality is also linked to greater father involvement for some outcomes, and domestic violence is strongly associated with lower involvement. A history of incarceration and having children by other partners also deter fathers' involvement. We conclude that both fathers' individual attributes and his relationship with the mother at the time the child is born have important consequences for fathers' subsequent involvement with young children. (Author abstract).

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