Panel: Noncustodial Father Involvement and Child Wellbeing: Implications for Social Policy
(Family and Child Policy)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Stetson BC (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Lawrence Berger, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Panel Chairs:  Sharon Bzostek, Rutgers University
Discussants:  David Pate, University of Wisconsin - Madison and Cynthia Osborne, University of Texas, Austin

Do Noncustodial Parents Have More Contact and Better Relationships with Their Most Recent Noncustodial Child?
Lawrence Berger, Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer and Angela Guarin Aristizabal, University of Wisconsin - Madison

The Role of Fathers in Reducing Income-Based Inequalities in Children’s Behavioral Outcomes
Lenna Nepomnyaschy1, Daniel Miller2, Maureen Waller3 and Sarah Gold1, (1)Rutgers University, (2)Boston University, (3)Cornell University

Most American children do not spend their entire childhood living with both of their biological parents. Rather, contemporary families are increasingly complex and fluid due to a rising share of births outside of marriage as well as high rates of cohabitation, parental breakup and divorce, multiple-partner fertility, and shared custody. It is especially common for children to spend part or all of their child hood in a household that does not include their biological father. Complex families are especially relevant to public policy given that they tend to be socially and economically disadvantaged and to interact with the child support enforcement system as well as a host of other social welfare programs.

 A sizeable research literature has documented that children experiencing a nonresident father, family complexity, or family instability are at increased risk of a range of adverse outcomes throughout the life course. A smaller research literature provides some evidence that nonresident father investments of time and money benefit for children. However, this literature has produced inconsistent findings regarding the types of investments that may matter most, in what contexts, and for which outcomes. This panel add to this growing area of study by assessing the contexts in which fathers invest in children, whether father investments are associated with greater access to resources among children, and how father investments may influence child wellbeing, including whether these associations may differ for children in higher- and lower-income families and by child developmental stage.  

In the first paper, Berger, Cancian, Meyer, and Guarin-Aristizabal, use new data from the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration program to examine whether fathers’ contact with children varies by birth order for children born to different mothers, and how this variation might be related to patterns of in-kind contributions. This research has implications for better understanding both whether fathers’ financial contributions and contact with children are substitutes or complements and the circumstances in which father investments may vary across children.

The second paper, “Nonresident Father Involvement and Their Children’s Food Insecurity over the Life Course” (Cuesta and Gold), uses detailed information from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics on history of child support payments, father-child contact, and food insecurity spells across childhood to examine whether nonresident father investments of time and money protect children from food insecurity at various stages of childhood and even into emerging adulthood.

Finally, Nepomnyaschy, Miller, Waller, and Gold, in their paper, use Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study data to investigate the extent to which nonresident father involvement reduces inequality in behavioral outcomes between children in lower- and higher-income families and during early, middle, and later childhood. This work will provide new insights into which domains of nonresident father involvement are most important for reducing income-based gaps in child behavior and at what stages of childhood.

Discussants Cynthia Osborne and David Pate will reflect on the papers’ individual and collective implications for child support, food assistance, and income support policies, as well as policies and programs to promote child wellbeing.

See more of: Family and Child Policy
See more of: Panel