Academic journal article Fathering

Longitudinal Influences on Men's Lives: Research from the Transition to Fatherhood Project and Beyond

Academic journal article Fathering

Longitudinal Influences on Men's Lives: Research from the Transition to Fatherhood Project and Beyond

Article excerpt

In this paper we discuss findings from the Transition to Fatherhood Project, as well as other research, to consider how changes in fatherhood may affect men. We first outline how the context of fathering has changed over the past half a century; we focus particularly on non-marital fatherhood, non-custodial fatherhood and multiple-partner fertility. Then, in the second part of the paper, we summarize what the literature can tell us about the employment and health consequences of fatherhood for men in different contexts and the intrinsic benefits from direct involvement with children. We close with a call for more research on the motivations for fatherhood, how fatherhood affects men differently and on how men think about fatherhood. In addition, we call for public policy based on the idea that children need time as well as money from their fathers.

Keywords: fatherhood, non-custodial fatherhood, multiple partner fertility, men's health

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The changes in family behavior--high divorce rates, non-marital cohabitation and fertility--that began in the last third of the twentieth century have been the subject of much research. Until fairly recently, most research on family behavior focused on women and children. In the mid-1990s, however, the research and policy communities began a sustained effort to increase our knowledge about fathers. The early efforts included a series of meetings and conferences documenting what was known about fathers and making recommendations for future research. There was also a focus on improving measures such as data on male fertility and conceptualizing new measures of father involvement. These activities culminated in the Conference on Fathering and Male Fertility: Improving Data and Research, which was held on March 13-14, 1997 (Emig & Greene, 1998). This conference produced specific recommendations for changes in how information on fathers and male fertility should be collected. The activities resulted in new data collection efforts that explicitly included fathers.

As more data about fathers became available, researchers began to analyze those data to learn more about the timing and circumstances of becoming a father, the consequences of different types of fathering for children, and outcomes for men. One such research effort was the Transition to Fatherhood Program Project Grant (P01) funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). From 2005 to 2012 a diverse group of researchers including demographers, economists, family scholars, public policy scholars, psychologists, and sociologists worked together to study various aspects of the transition to fatherhood in the United States.

We draw on findings from this project, as well as from other recent research to discuss the consequences for men of becoming a father. Because these consequences are likely to differ for men who enter into and experience fatherhood under different circumstances, we first discuss how the context of fathering has changed over the past half a century. We specifically focus on the marital context of fathering, the residential status of fathering, and fathering across households due to multiple partner fertility. In the following section we briefly review trends in these three aspects of fatherhood concluding with a discussion about how the experience of fatherhood is diverging by socioeconomic status for men. Then, in the second part of the paper, we summarize what the literature can tell us about the employment and health consequences of fatherhood for men in different contexts and the intrinsic benefits from direct involvement with children. We also draw out some of the implications of these trends for researchers who are interested in fatherhood in America. Our intention is not to exhaustively review the literature, but rather to point towards directions that field of study must take in order to understand increasing inequality among families and to better target programs that are intended to help families and fathers. …

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