BioDad vs Father Figure

Myth -- Children do better when their biological fathers are involved with them, rather than another kind of "father figure."

Fact: "In contrast with theoretical arguments suggesting that biological father involvement is better for children than social father involvement, the results from this analysis suggest that both are equally beneficial for the well-being of young children... [but] it is difficult to determine the direction of causality... rather than father involvement improving child well-being, fathers may simply prefer to be more involved with children who are already well-behaved and healthy."

Sharon H. Bzostek, Social Fathers and Child Well-Being, Journal of Marriage and Family, Volume 70, Issue 4 (p 950-961) (2008)

Fact: "Contrary to the additive hypothesis that adolescents would be best off when they enjoyed close ties to both stepfathers and nonresident fathers, results show that having a close tie to one's stepfather only is nearly as beneficial as having close ties to both fathers... Having close ties only to a nonresident father is not as beneficial as having close ties to both fathers in terms of externalizing and internalizing problems, although it is for avoiding failing grades. Of the five competing hypotheses considered, the evidence most strongly supports the primacy of residence hypothesis... [A]lthough it is certainly possible to have close bonds with two fathers, the majority of U.S. adolescents are not in this situation. Further, when adolescents have two fathers, they are more likely to be closer to their stepfathers than to their nonresident fathers... In terms of the adolescent outcomes examined, having a close tie only to a stepfather is nearly as beneficial as having close ties to both fathers... The advantages of a close tie only to the nonresident father are less apparent."

Valarie King (2006) The Antecedents and Consequences of Adolescents' Relationships With Stepfathers and Nonresident Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (4), 910-928.

Fact: "We expected that biological fathers would demonstrate higher quality parenting practices than social fathers. For the most part, however, we do not find this to be the case... Most notably, social fathers (overall) engage in higher levels of cooperation in parenting than biological fathers... findings provide little support for theoretical perspectives linking biology to father involvement."

Lawrence M. Berger, Marcia J. Carlson, Sharon H. Bzostek, Cynthia Osborne, Parenting Practices of Resident Fathers: The Role of Marital and Biological Ties, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 3, Pages 625 - 639 (2008)

Fact: "[T]he various patterns of coresidence did not differ from the children in intact families on the outcome measures, suggesting that during the initial adjustment period after marital dissolution, the absence of a father-figure or the presence of biological-father-substitutes appear to have no influence on most children's intellectual or psychosocial functioning."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Hawkins, Alan J. and David J. Eggebeen. 1991. "Are Fathers Fungible? Patterns of Coresident Adult Men in Maritally Disrupted Families and Young Children's Well-being." Journal of Marriage and the Family 53(4): 958-972.

Fact: "[S]tudy attempted to determine whether biological father presence made a difference in children's cognitive ability or behavioral adjustment and sought to find how many of the effects of father presence were explicable by referring to background or indirect effects such as economic provision... when maternal characteristics and family resources were controlled for, almost all of the impacts of father presence disappeared... almost all of the father's impact on the family is related to economic support."

Crockett, L. J., Eggebeen, D. J., & Hawkins, A. J. (1993). Father's presence and young children's behavioral and cognitive adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 14 (3), 355-377.

Fact: "The data come from 2,531 children and their parents who were interviewed during the 1997 wave of the Child Development Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Biology explains less of father involvement than anticipated once differences between fathers are controlled. Marriage continues to differentiate paternal investment levels, as do age of child and financial responsibility to nonresidential children."

Sandra L. Hofferth, Kermyt G. Anderson (2003) Are All Dads Equal? Biology Versus Marriage as a Basis for Paternal Investment Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (1), 213-232.

Also see: Wendy D Manning, Pamela J Smock (2000) "Swapping" Families: Serial Parenting and Economic Support for Children Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (1), 111-122. ("...our findings indicate that fathers do swap families but only when the trade-off is between new biological children living inside fathers' households and existing biological children living outside fathers' households. Even though our analytic sample is small, our findings have important implications for child well-being, child-support policy, and the meaning of fatherhood.")

You can read more at the Liz Library.

Did you see that:

...almost all of the father's impact on the family is related to economic support...

Yes, it's the money. It's the money. Get it in your head. Accept it. I know it's hard and it may even hurt a little...

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