With dramatic growth in nonrmarital births, an increasing number of children are growing up in single-mother families. This study examines the relationships among nonresident fathers' parenting and children's behavioral and cognitive development in low-income, single-mother families. It also considers the personal characteristics ofthe children's single mothers as well as family processes and economic circumstances. Analyses use the first three waves of longitudinal data from a sub.sample of single and noncohabiting mothers in the Fragile Families and C:hild Wellbeing Study. Results suggest that nonresident fathers' parenting is indirectly associated with children's behavior problems and cognitive development. The findings further suggest that those estimated associations are transmitted through mothers' parenting. The study also discusses the policy and practice implications of its findings.
Demographic changes, including dramatic growth in the number of nonmarital births, have increased the number of cbildren raised iu single-mother families. In 2006, for example, nonmarital births accounted for 50.4 percent of all births to women under age 30 (Herbert 2008). Single mothers are more likely than other mothers to be poor, and their children are more likely than others to have an uninvolved or missing father (McAdoo 1993; Staples 1999; McLoyd et al. 2000). Some, including President Barack Obama, contend that fathers, whether resident or nonresident, are critical to the foundation of the family (Bosnian 2008). Others argue that children develop optimally in famihes that include both a primary caregiver (usually a mother) and another supporter (often a father) of the primary caregiver (see, e.g., Broufen- Sodal Service Review (December 2010).
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656 Social Service Review
brenner 1988; Jackson and Scheines 2005; Jackson, Choi, and Franke 2009). There is empirical support for the notion that children in lowincome, single-parent families, regardless of their race, are more likely to experience social and emotional problems than are children in other types of families (see, e.g., McLanahan and Sandefur 1994; Aquilino 1996; Demo and Cox 2000; Haveman, Wolfe, and Pence 2001; Lugaila and Overturf 2004). Yet, littie is known about how single mothers and nonresident fathers coparent in low-income families.
Relatively few studies explore the ways in which nonresident fathers' relationships with their children affect child outcomes in the context of family processes that include mother-father relationship quality and maternal parenting. The present study focuses on the role of nonresident fathers' parenting in the behavioral and cognitive outcomes of children from low-income, single-mother families. More specifically, it seeks to determine whether nonresident fathers' parenting is directly associated with their children's behavioral or cognitive development. It also considers whether fathers' parenting is indirectly associated with the children's development. In particular, it assesses whether that parenting is transmitted through single mothers' personal characteristics (e.g., educational attainment and psychological functioning), family processes (e.g., mother-father relationship quality and maternal parenting), and maternal economic circumstances (e.g., income and economic hardship).
Nonresident Fathers' Parenting, Family Processes, and
Ample evidence suggests that fathers' involvement in parenting is beneficial to children's behavioral and cognitive development (Flouri and Buchanan 2001, 2004; Zick, Bryant, and Österbacka 2001; Hofferth 2003; Stewart 2003). However, only a few studies target low-income, single-mother families in their samples (see, e.g.. Black, Dubowitz, and Starr 1999; Jackson 1999; Jackson and Scheines 2005; Jackson, Choi, and Bentler 2009). Aurora Jackson (1999) examines the influence of...
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