Social Fathers’ Characteristics, Parenting Quality, and Family Stability

Lawrence M. Berger, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sharon Bzostek, Rutgers University
Marcia J. Carlson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Many children will spend time living with a ‘social father’ (who is married to or cohabiting with their mother but to whom they are not related). Recent evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW) suggests that mothers often repartner with men with higher economic capabilities than their children’s fathers and who are highly involved with their children. Yet, it is unclear whether these characteristics are associated with family stability or persist over time. We use FFCW data to examine (1) whether high-quality fathering behaviors are related to union stability and (2) whether social father parenting behaviors persist or fade over time among intact social-father families, as compared to intact biological-father families. Findings reveal equal or higher quality parenting behaviors among social-father families, but greater stability among biological-father families. Furthermore, parenting behaviors do not notably predict union stability; social fathers’ parenting quality also declines somewhat over time.

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Presented in Session 146: Repartnering and Stepfamilies