Academic journal article Family Relations

Neighborhood Disorder and Paternal Involvement of Nonresident and Resident Fathers

Academic journal article Family Relations

Neighborhood Disorder and Paternal Involvement of Nonresident and Resident Fathers

Article excerpt

Using data of 775 nonresident father families and 1,407 resident father families from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this study examined whether neighborhood disorder was associated with fathers' supportive involvement in child care. Bivariate analysis indicated that mothers and children of nonresident father families were more likely to live in disordered neighborhoods than those of resident father families. Multivariate analysis indicated that neighborhood disorder was negatively associated with nonresident fathers' involvement in child care, but not with that of resident fathers. In addition, relationship quality between the father and mother, father or mother married to or cohabiting with another person, fathers' income and alcohol dependence, and child health status were associated with nonresident or resident fathers' involvement. Policy and practice implications of the findings are discussed.

Key Words: father involvement, fragile families , neighborhood disorder, resident and nonresident father families.

About one third of children in the United States live without their biological father, which is largely driven by the dramatic increase in births to unwed mothers over the past several decades (Carlson, McLanahan, & Brooks-Gunn, 2008). Although most unwed births occur while parents are cohabiting, these cohabitations often dissolve shortly after the birth of the child. Carlson and colleagues' analyses with a nationally representative data set found that nearly 50% of unwed fathers lived away from their children when the children were about 1 year old, and the rate increased to 63% when the children were about 5 years old. Biological father absence can unfavorably affect aspects of child well-being such as social, emotional, and cognitive development (Bronte-Tinkew, Moore, Capps, & Zaff, 2006; Carlson, 2006; Coley & Medeiros, 2007). Although a segment of families without the presence of biological fathers have other father figures in the family such as stepfathers or cohabiting boyfriends, the extent to which these father figures can compensate for the loss of biological fathers on child development is controversial (Biblarz & Raftery, 1999; Bzostek, 2008; Ginther & Pollak, 2004), and a large proportion of these families undergo at least a period of time without the presence of such father figures.

With the increased awareness about the importance of father involvement on child wellbeing, there is emerging interest in understanding different types of father involvement such as father-child contacts, father-child play, effective disciplining, and fathers' supportive efforts for mothers (Amato & Gilbreth, 1999; Sarkadi, Kristiansson, Oberklaid, & Bremberg, 2008). In particular, recent attention has turned from father-child interaction to fathers' efforts to support mothers in child-care issues. Although little is known about this particular type of father involvement, some evidence has found it to be more relevant to child well-being and predictive of the levels of other types of father involvement (Carlson et al., 2008; Sobolewski & King, 2005).

The increased interest in father involvement has also spurred attention to the factors affecting such involvement. Despite the recognition that father involvement is embedded within social contexts, however, existing studies have largely limited their analyses to individual characteristics of the father, mother, and children and their relationships, with almost no attention to community environment (Carlson et al., 2008; Fagan & Polkovitz, 2007; Sobolewski & King, 2005). To close this knowledge gap, the current study used a nationally representative data set to examine whether neighborhood disorder, indicated by the presence of violent and illegal activities and other problems, is associated with supportive father involvement in child care. Although they have frequently been combined in previous research, this relationship is examined separately for nonresident and resident fathers. …

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