Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Single Custodial Fathers' Involvement and Parenting: Implications for Outcomes in Emerging Adulthood

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Single Custodial Fathers' Involvement and Parenting: Implications for Outcomes in Emerging Adulthood

Article excerpt

Using a sample of 3,977 youths from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), this study examines the unique characteristics of single-custodial-father families with adolescents and the effects of single fathers' involvement and parenting on outcomes in emerging adulthood. Findings suggest that single-custodial-father families are distinct from single-mother and 2-biological-parent families in terms of sociodemographic characteristics, parenting styles, and involvement. Parenting styles and involvement mediate the differences between single-father families and 2-parent families in terms of high school completion and disconnectedness and partially mediate differences for single-custodial-father families with a partner. Family and sociodemographic characteristics are also associated with being disconnected for adolescents residing with a cohabiting custodial father.

Key Words: adolescents, emerging adults, parental involvement, parenting styles, single-parent families.

Consistently high rates of divorce and increasing rates of nonmarital childbearing in recent years have resulted in children residing in a number of diverse family structures (Bianchi & Casper, 2000). One family type that has become increasingly more common is singlecustodial-father families in which fathers have primary responsibility for rearing their children (i.e., have sole custody). For example, in 1 970, although 1.1% of children under age 18 lived in a single-custodial-father home, this number had climbed to 4.8% by 2005 (Current Population Survey, 2005).

Although much public and research attention has been paid to single custodial mothers, less attention has focused on single custodial fathers (Carlson & Corcoran, 2001). To date, there are few detailed analyses of single custodial fathers' involvement or parenting behaviors, particularly with their adolescent children, as early studies of single custodial fathers have focused mainly on the implications of children's separation from their mothers (Grief, 1 985) and have compared outcomes for children in single-custodial-father families to children of two-parent and single-custodial-mother families (Downey, Ainsworth-Darnell, & Dufur, 1998). Few studies have described the ways single custodial fathers are involved with their adolescent children or their parenting styles. Moreover, a consideration of how single-custodial-father involvement and parenting matters for youths in the emerging adult years has not been the subject of previous inquiry.

Given these limitations in extant research, this study uses nationally representative longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 (NLS Y97) to examine differences in outcomes during emerging adulthood between offspring growing up in a single-custodial-father household compared to offspring growing up in other family structures. We address the following research questions: (a) Do the sociodemographic characteristics of single-custodial-father households with adolescents differ from other family structures? (b) How are single custodial fathers involved with adolescents, and what are their parenting styles compared to those of parents in other family structures? (c) Do fathers' involvement and parenting styles mediate the association between family structure and young adult outcomes (i.e., disconnectedness [neither enrolled in school nor employed] and high school completion) for youths in single-custodial-father households compared to other family configurations? and (d) Within single-custodial-father households, what are the specific aspects of involvement and parenting styles that influence young adult outcomes (e.g., disconnectedness, school completion)?

This study contributes to the burgeoning literature on single-custodial-father households and adolescent/young adult well-being in a number of ways. First, rather than mothers, the focus is on fathers and outcomes in emerging adulthood - a period characterized by considerable development and multiple transitions (Furstenberg, Rumbaut, & Settersten, 2005), which parenting during adolescence also affects (Aquilino, 1997). …

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