Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Factors Associated with Multiple-Partner Fertility among Fathers

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Factors Associated with Multiple-Partner Fertility among Fathers

Article excerpt

This article uses a sample of 1,731 fathers aged 16 - 45 from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth to identify factors associated with multiple-partner fertility. Almost one third of fathers who reported multiple-partner fertility did so across a series of nonmarital relationships, and nonmarital-only multiple-partner fertility has been increasing across recent cohorts of men. Being older, having a first sexual experience or a first child at a young age, and fathering a child outside of marriage or cohabitation are associated with greater odds of multiple-partner fertility, whereas having additional children with the first birth mother is associated with reduced odds. Black, Hispanic, and young fathers have especially high odds of experiencing multiple-partner fertility across a series of nonmarital relationships.

Key Words: fatherhood, life course theory, social trends! social change, transition to parenthood.

High rates of divorce in the United States, combined with long-term increases in childbearing outside of marriage, have led to the occurrence of "multiple-partner fertility," or having biological children with more than one partner. It is important to better understand factors associated with multiple-partner fertility among fathers in particular because fathers are more likely than mothers to live apart from children by previous partners, and they alter their economic support and time commitments to their nonresident children when they father a child in a new relationship (Carlson & Furstenberg, 2005). Multiple-partner fertility occurs both within and outside of marriage; however, until recently, limited data have been available to differentiate multiplepartner fertility by men's relationships with the mothers of their children.

In general, having children from a previous union reduces the prospects that parents will marry (Mincy, 2002; Stewart, Manning, & Smock, 2003; Upchurch, Lillard, & Panis, 2001). Couples in which the father (but not the mother) already had children with a previous partner are less likely to marry or live together following the birth of a child (Carlson, McLanahan, & England, 2004). Moreover, having children with multiple partners is often a source of tension in a couple's relationship following a new child's birth (Carlson & Furstenberg, 2005). Multiplepartner fertility also has important consequences for children. When men father children with more than one woman, they are faced with competing demands on their time and resources across households, which may lead to "swapping" their commitment from children that they had in a previous relationship to children with whom they are currently living (Manning & Smock, 2000). Swapping reduces social and economic investments in nonresident children as fathers take on new parenting roles (Manning & Smock; Meyer, Cancian, & Cook, 2005).

Having children in multiple households also reduces fathers' visitation with their nonresident children (Carlson & Furstenberg, 2005), and low levels of contact are associated with reduced psychological well-being and lower academic achievement among children, as well as with greater behavioral problems (Bronte-Tinkew, Moore, Capps, & Zaff, 2006; Harris, Furstenberg, & Manner, 1998). Families without a resident father are also likely to experience uneven or inconsistent parenting, which can have negative consequences for children (Carlson & Furstenberg; McLanahan & Tietler, 1999).

This paper contributes to a small body of previous research by using nationally representative data to provide a descriptive portrait of the prevalence and correlates of multiple-partner fertility among fathers, which may provide information on target populations for intervention. A better understanding of the relationship context of multiple-partner fertility also has implications for child support enforcement and marriage promotion programs targeted to improving outcomes among children born to unmarried parents. …

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