Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Fathering in Intact and Divorced Families: Ethnic Differences in Retrospective Reports

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Fathering in Intact and Divorced Families: Ethnic Differences in Retrospective Reports

Article excerpt

The present study was designed to investigate whether ethnicity moderates the effects of divorce on young adults' retrospective reports of fathering. An ethnically diverse sample of 1,989 university students completed measures of nurturant fathering, reported father involvement, and desired father involvement. Compared with participants from intact families, those from divorced families indicated lower levels of nurturant fathering and reported father involvement. These differences varied considerably by ethnicity. Reported fathering differences between participants from intact and divorced families were greatest in African Americans, Caribbean Islanders, and foreign-born Cubans. These differences were smallest in non-Hispanic Whites and Asians. Participants from divorced families reported greater-levels of desired father involvement than did participants from intact families. These differences were not moderated by ethnicity.

Key Words: divorce, ethnicity, father-child relationships, father involvement, nurturant fathering, retrospective reports.

Research on father involvement has gained increasing momentum in recent years (Day & Lamb, 2004; Lamb, 1997; Tamis-LeMonda & Cabrera, 2002), and many scholars have argued that father involvement is critical for healthy child and adolescent development (e.g., Palkovitz, 2002; Rohner & Veneziano, 2001). With rising divorce rates, however, fathers increasingly have been cast into the role of nonresident parents (Amato & Gilbreth, 1999; Finley, 2003). Generally, nonresident fathering has been viewed as an impediment to fatherchild relationships (e.g., Amato & Gilbreth; Fabricius & Hall, 2000). Most critically, opportunities for nurturance and involvement in children's lives clearly are fewer for nonresident fathers than for fathers in intact families (Finley; Thompson, 1994).

Empirical research is lacking, however, regarding the extent to which family form differences in children's perceptions of their fathers' nurturance and involvement might be moderated by ethnicity. Research on immigrants and minorities has become a priority in the United States because (a) nearly a quarter of Americans are the foreign-born or U.S.-born children of immigrants (Schmidley, 2003), and (b) minorities currently comprise more than one third of the U.S. population (Day, 1996). Further, the representation of minorities in the United States is rapidly increasing. Of relevance to the present sample, 8 of the top 10 countries of origin for immigrants arriving in the United States between 1990 and 2000 were located in Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean (Schmidley & Deardorff, 2001). Hispanics represent the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States, increasing by 58% during the 1990s (Therrien & Ramirez, 2000). With the U.S. population continuing to diversify, it is important to examine the implications of this ethnic diversity for the study of family dynamics. Specifically, Black, Hispanic, and Asian cultures place different-and often greater-emphasis on family than does White American culture (Santisteban, Muir-Malcolm, Mitrani, & Szapocznik, 2002). Consequently, divorce may affect children's perceptions of their fathers differentially, depending on the cultural group to which they and their fathers belong.

The objective of the present study was to examine ethnic similarities and differences in the effects of divorce on reports of father involvement and nurturant fathering. The sample for the present study largely was drawn from Miami, a city with a large population of Hispanics, non-Hispanic Whites, and non-Hispanic Blacks. In Miami, non-Hispanic Blacks include both African Americans, who have lived in the United States for many generations, and Caribbean Islanders (e.g., Haitians, Jamaicans), most of whom arrived during the last two generations (Kasinitz, Battle, & Miyares, 2001; Stepick, Stepick, Eugene, Teed, & Labissiere, 2001). …

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