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Relationships between Fathers and Children Who Live Apart: The Father's Role after Separation

Judith A. Seltzer
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 53, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 79-101
DOI: 10.2307/353135
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353135
Page Count: 23
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Relationships between Fathers and Children Who Live Apart: The Father's Role after Separation
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Abstract

Wide variation in patterns of fathers' involvement after separation suggests an absence of clear rules about fathers' responsibilities. This article uses data from the 1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households to describe three components of nonresident fathers' involvement with children: social contact, economic involvement, and participation in childrearing decisions. The analysis shows that fathers' involvement with children varies depending on the circumstances of the children's birth and their current living arrangements. Nevertheless, the data suggest stability in the definition of the father role after separation, when family characteristics are controlled. Just as fathers who live with their children spend time with them, provide for their material welfare, and exercise authority over them, fathers who live apart from their children combine these responsibilities. Fathers who visit are also more likely to pay child support and influence childrearing decisions. Notwithstanding the close correspondence among the three dimensions of paternal involvement, levels of involvement are low. Thus, for most children born outside of marriage or whose parents divorce, the father role is defined as much by omission as by commission.

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