Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Fathering across Families: How Father Involvement Varies for Children When Their Father Has Children Living Elsewhere

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Fathering across Families: How Father Involvement Varies for Children When Their Father Has Children Living Elsewhere

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Current patterns of family formation in Australia mean that significant numbers of children are growing up in families include step-parents or step-siblings, or are headed by cohabiting rather than married parents. Further, these families may extend beyond the one household. It is this situation that is explored in this paper, with a focus on how fathering of young resident children differs when fathers have children living in another household. It is expected that when a father has children living in another household, his capacity to be involved with children living within the current couple-family may be somewhat diminished. This paper explores to what extent this is true, by examining father involvement using Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Multivariate analyses of these data found that on some aspects of father involvement, those fathers with children living elsewhere did have diminished levels of involvement. Partnered fathers with children living elsewhere were less involved in some aspects of care of resident children. Children in these families had less time in the day when they were with their father without their mother also present. Further, fathers who had children living elsewhere spent less time doing child care tasks. These findings were apparent in multivariate analyses, which also took account of a wide range of family, parental and child characteristics.

KEYWORDS: fathering, families, non-resident fathers, step-families

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Families consisting of two married co-resident parents and their children remain the most prevalent family form in which children are raised, but current patterns of family formation in Australia mean that significant numbers of children are growing up in families that fall outside this norm. Such families may include step-parents or step-siblings, or be headed by cohabiting rather than married parents. Further, these families may extend beyond the one household, with parents having children living elsewhere. It is this situation that is explored in this paper, with a focus on how fathering of young resident children differs when fathers have children living in another household. It is expected that having children in multiple households will provide a more challenging context for parenting, with the resources (temporal as well as financial) of fathers potentially shared across those households (Carlson & Furstenberg, 2006; Hofferth & Anderson, 2003; Manning & Smock, 2000). This paper focuses on the temporal aspects, to examine fathers' involvement in children's activities, time with children and time doing childcare activities. Differences in these aspects of fathering are also analysed according to whether parents are cohabiting or married, and whether families include step or biological relationships.

This paper considers those fathers who are currently living in couple families with young children and explores different dimensions of fathering by these men. The study aims to provide some insights into ways in which children's lives might differ when their father has children living elsewhere. As parental investment in children is generally considered to contribute to positive outcomes for children (e.g., Cooksey & Fondell, 1996), if lower levels of father involvement are found by those who have children living elsewhere, this may have implications for the outcomes of co-resident children living in these more complex families (Bronte-Tinkew, Horowitz, & Scott, 2009).

BACKGROUND

Who are fathers with children living elsewhere?

The relationship and fertility histories of fathers explain the occurrence of having children living elsewhere. In particular, this can occur when children of a former relationship live elsewhere, usually with the mother of those children. Fathers may also have children living in multiple households simply because older children from the current relationship have matured and left home. …

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