Saturday

Children and Post-Divorce Father Contact

Myth -- Research shows that children do better the more contact they have post-divorce with nonresidential fathers.

Fact: "Limited research has been conducted on the relationship between child outcomes and involvement of fathers who do not live with their children. Most of this research has focused on the provision of formal child support and the frequency of father-child contact. Divorce and nonmarital childbearing do not preclude fathers from being actively involved in their children's lives. [However] while the percentage of children living apart from their fathers has increased in recent decades, little national-level research has been conducted on the role that fathers living apart from their children play in their lives, and the relationship between nonresident father involvement and child outcome."

Child Trends, "What Do Fathers Contribute To Children's Well-being?" A Summary of Research Findings, Child Trends, Inc. (1997) http://www.childtrends.org/dadchild.htm

Fact: "Existing research is mixed about whether the continuing involvement of nonresident fathers is important to children's lives. Several large-scale studies have found no association between the amount of contact a non-custodial father has with his children and an assortment of measures of child well-being (King, 1994; Furstenberg, Morgan, and Allison, 1987). Other studies, however, have found continued contact to be related to improved psychological scores, fewer behavioral problems, and better peer relationships (Peterson and Zill, 1986; Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980)."

NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Statistical Analysis Report: Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools, October 1997, (NCES 98-091), http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs98/fathers/

Fact: Nonresident father's involvement appears to correlate with children's increased academic performance in grades 1-12. However, this generally holds only when resident mothers are not very involved. "This association weakens when mothers' involvement is included in the model."

NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Statistical Analysis Report: Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools, October 1997, (NCES 98-091), http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs98/fathers/

Also see Soren Svanum, Robert G. Bringle, Joan E. McLaughlin, Father Absence and Cognitive Performance in a Large Sample of Six- to Eleven-Year-Old Children, Child Development, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Feb., 1982), pp. 136-143 (The effects of father absence on educational achievement and intellectual development of 6-11-year-old children were investigated by employing a nationally representative sample of 5,493 father-present and 616 father-absent children from the Health Examination Survey of the National Center for Health Statistics... Following statistical control for SES, we associated no decrements with the father's absence/presence, and in some instances, small but significant increments were found to be associated with children from fatherless families.)

Fact: "The physically close but psychologically distant parent-child interaction seemed to affect the child's behavior detrimentally, whereas children with physically and psychologically close interaction with their parents showed less behavioral problems... " Children did better where the family boundaries were clear. "In the families where there was a lot of confusion in the family boundaries both the physical and psychological involvement of the father with the family and the children was occasional and often caused problems. The parents interacted with each other only because of the children, but they had nothing else in common... In the well-functioning families where, according to mothers' reports, both the mother and the children had accepted the physically absent father inside the family boundaries the children had fewer behavioral problems."

Anja Taanila et al. Effects of Family Interaction on the Child's Behavior In Single-Parent or Reconstructed Families, Family Process (2002) -Vol. 41 Issue 4 557-736

Fact: "While public sentiment has been in favor of nonresident father's involvement in family life, there is limited research evidence of whether their involvement yields positive benefits for children (King, 1994) and for the functioning of the biological family unit... most studies, particularly those based on large national databases, have not been able to detect a significant connection between the nonresident father's contact with his child and the child's well-being (Furstenberg et al., 1987; King, 1994). In a study which did find an association between absent-father involvement and child well-being, it was found also that father contact was beneficial only to the degree that both parents got along fairly well (Hetherington et al., 1978)."

Jordan. Will J., NATIONAL CENTER ON FATHERS AND FAMILIES, Role Transitions: A Review of the Literature, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Box 58 Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216, 8/25/97 http://fatherfamilylink.gse.upenn.edu/org/ncoff/litrev/rtlr.htm

Fact: "Research findings on the association between frequency of father-child contact and child outcomes are mixed. In general, large-scale studies find no relationship between father-child contact and child outcomes, such as cognitive development, academic achievement, behavior, and perceptions of academic competence and self-worth."

CHILD TRENDS: SUMMARY OF KEY RESEARCH FINDINGS, citing Baydar, N. & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1994). The dynamics of child support and its consequences for children. In I. Garfinkel, S. S. McLanahan, P. K. Robins, (Eds.), Child Support and Child Well-Being (pp. 257-279). Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press; Furstenberg, F. F., Morgan, S. P. & Allison, P.A. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701; King, V. (1994). Nonresident father involvement and child well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 78-96; McLanahan, S.S., Seltzer, J.A., Hanson, T.L., & Thomson, E. (1994). Child support enforcement and child well-being: Greater security or greater conflict? In I. Garfinkel, S. McLanahan, & P.K. Robbins (Eds.), Child Support and Child Well-being. (pp.239-254). Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press. http://www.childtrends.org/dadchild.htm


Fact: "[C]hildren who have had no contact with their fathers in more than a year are more likely to be involved in extracurricular activities than children who have seen their fathers in the past year but whose fathers participated in none of the school activities. Part of the explanation for this pattern may be that children are spending time with their nonresident fathers instead of participating in extracurricular activities."

NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Statistical Analysis Report: Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools, October 1997, (NCES 98-091), http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs98/fathers/

Fact: "The weight of evidence does not support the view that higher levels of child-nonresidential father contact are automatically or always beneficial to children."

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,http://www.wa.gov/courts/parent/chap4.htm

Fact: "Some research suggests that contact between children and fathers who do not live together is associated with fewer behavior problems and improved psychological well-being. However, other studies have found that father contact has a detrimental effect on children's math scores, delinquency, and behavior problems. This suggest that frequency of contact may be less important to child well-being than the quality of the father-child relationship."

Ibid, citing, Furstenberg, F. F., Morgan, S. P. & Allison, P.A. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701; King V. (1994). Variation in the consequences of nonresident father involvement for children's well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 963-972; King, V. (1994). Nonresident father involvement and child well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 78-96. http://www.childtrends.org/dadchild.htm

Fact: "Among the highest-quality studies reviewed here (Argys et al. 1998; Baydar 1988; Furstenberg et al. 1987; Guidabaldi et al. 1987; King 1994a,b), only one [Guidabaldi] finds higher child well-being among children who have more contact with their nonresidential father; four find no impact of the level of contact with the nonresidential father; and one finds reduced well-being among children who have more contact with their nonresidential father." (In 1988, Baydar reported reduced emotional well-being among children who had frequent contact with nonresidential fathers. This was a large, national longitudinal study that included appropriate controls.)

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,http://www.wa.gov/courts/parent/chap4.htm

Fact: "The cumulative body of social science research does not support the presumption that frequent and continuing access by both parents lies at the core of the child's best interest. What counts is not the quantity of time, but the extent to which the access parent and child have a relationship in which the child feels valued. The regularity and predictability of visits is more important than frequency of visits."

M.B. Isaacs, B. Montalvo and D. Abelsohn, The Difficult Divorce: Therapy for Children and Families, New York: Basic Books, 1986.

Fact: "Divorced fathers help their children more by consistent payment of their child support than by the number of visits made to their children."

King, Valarie, "Divorced Fathers Make Strongest Impact With Child Support," Penn State, http://www.psu.edu/ur/archives/news/divfathers.html

Fact: "[P]aternal contact was unrelated to several measures of well-being, including the presence of delinquency, academic difficulty, distress (including feelings of loneliness, depression, or anxiety), and dissatisfaction (with self, family, friends, etc.)."

Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., Morgan, S. P., & Allison, P. D. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701.

Fact: In families formed by black adolescent mothers, "[t]he presence of a father inside the home provide[d] only a modest advantage for children's well-being. Contact, even regular contact, with fathers outside the home had little effect on positive youth outcomes."

Furstenberg, Jr., F. F. & Harris, K. M. (1993). When fathers matter/why fathers matter: The impact of paternal involvement on the offspring of adolescent mothers. In A. Lawson & D. L. Rhode (Eds.), The politics of pregnancy: Adolescent sexuality and public policy (pp. 189-215). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Fact: "The amount of contact that children had with their fathers seemed to make little difference for their well-being. Teen-agers who saw their fathers regularly were just as likely as were those with infrequent contact to have problems in school or engage in delinquent acts and precocious sexual behavior. Furthermore, the children's behavioral adjustment was also unrelated to the level of intimacy and identification with the nonresidential father. No differences were observed even among the children who had both regular contact and close relations with their father outside the home. Moreover, when the children in the NSC were reinterviewed in 1987 at ages 18 to 23, those who had retained stable, close ties to their fathers were neither more or less successful than those who had low or inconsistent levels of contact and intimacy with their fathers."

Furstenberg, F., & Cherlin, A. (1991). Divided families: What happens to children when parents part. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.; Furstenberg, F., Morgan, S., & Allison, P. (1987). Parental participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701.


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