Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Intergenerational Continuity of Fathers' Absence in a Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Sample

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Intergenerational Continuity of Fathers' Absence in a Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Sample

Article excerpt

Fathers ' absence is a pattern that shows intergenerational continuity, most notably within disadvantaged populations. The process whereby this pattern is repeated across generations is not well understood. Using data from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, the authors investigated pathways between fathers ' absence in 1 generation and the experience of fathers ' absence by their children. The current sample included 386 socioeconomically at-risk individuals across 2 waves of data collection: (a) when they were children and (b) when they were adults with their own children. Analyses based on structural equation modeling revealed that men whose fathers were absent when they were children were more likely to become absent fathers, and women whose fathers were absent when they were children were more likely to have children with absent partners. Indirect pathways between fathers ' absence in 2 generations through aggression, education, and substance abuse were illustrated for women. These findings add to the literature suggesting that fathers ' absence during childhood has intergenerational effects.

Key Words: development or outcomes, fathers, intergenerational transmission, longitudinal, low-income families, single-parent families.

As the frequency of divorce increased in the 1970s and 1980s in North America, research emerged examining the short- and long-term effects of divorce on children's well-being (see Amato, 2010, for a review). One common line of investigation involved the marriages of individuals whose parents divorced when they were children. Studies that have examined large national samples in the United States have found modest to moderate effects indicating that children who experience their parents' divorce are likely to later on experience divorce themselves (Amato, 1996, 1999; Amato & DeBoer, 200 1 ; Teachman, 2002; Wolfinger, 1999).

Fathers' absence (i.e., fathers not living in their children's homes on a full-time basis) can be conceptually separated from divorce; specifically, the absence of a father does not necessarily imply that the child has experienced the loss of the father from the home, for example, in cases when the parents were never married and never cohabited. Children's stress due to fathers' absence per se might be different from stress due to the experience of parental separation, which might include factors such as exposure to marital conflict, changes in living arrangements, and economic decline (for a review of the divorce-stressadjustment perspective, see Amato, 2000). Therefore, divorce and fathers' absence are distinct, and each might be important.

The continuity of fathers' absence between generations, whether as a result of divorce or the dissolution of cohabiting or noncohabiting relationships, has not been widely examined within a context in which cohabitation is relatively common. The issue of cohabitation (i.e., living with a romantic partner without being legally married) is particularly relevant in the Canadian province of Québec, where the rate of cohabiting relationships is much higher than in the rest of North America. In 2006, approximately 25% of families in Québec included two biological parents in cohabiting relationships, whereas 5.5% of Canadian families outside of Québec, and 3.5% of American families, included both biological parents in cohabiting relationships (Statistics Canada, 2007a; U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). Moreover, because dissolutions of cohabiting relationships do not typically involve costly and emotionally difficult legal proceedings, cohabiting relationships are more likely to be dissolved than marriages (Andersson, 2002; Kamp Dush & Amato, 2005). Indeed, 68% of relationship dissolutions in Québec were cohabitation separations, whereas 32% were divorces (Statistics Canada, 2006). Similarly in the United States, some racial/ethnic minority groups are more likely to enter into nonpremarital cohabiting relationships that have been found to have a higher likelihood of dissolution than marriages or premarital cohabiting relationships (Bumpass & Lu, 2001). …

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