Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, factors related to urban poor single mothers (N=1373) and their children born between 1998 and 2000 were analyzed. The data consisted of parent survey interviews at their children's birth (Time 1), age one (Time 2), and age three (Time 3). Included in the model were mother-reported data regarding maternal education measured at Time 1; family income, economic hardship, interparental relations, maternal depressive symptoms, paternal parenting, and maternal parenting at Time 2; and child behavioral problems and cognitive development at Time 3. For missing responses, this study used maximum likelihood estimation. To test the hypotheses, structural equation modeling was used.
Results: The decomposition of the direct and indirect effects indicated that the quality of paternal parenting was significantly associated with the children's behavior problems and cognitive development transmitted through maternal parenting. It should be also noted that family income, maternal economic hardship, and the quality of mother-father relationship had significant indirect effects on both child behavior problems and cognitive development. Regarding total effects, children's behavior problems, maternal education, and maternal depressive symptoms were the most influential predictors of children's cognitive development, respectively. Maternal education, maternal parenting, family income, and the quality of mother-father relationship also had strong effects on children's behavior problems, as expected.
Implications: These results suggest that current policy initiatives to promote responsible fatherhood and father involvement should be encouraged. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which reauthorized TANF through 2010, reemphasizes the need to help fathers to enhance parenting, communication, and relationship skills. The Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007 aims to sustain a healthy relationship between fathers and children and a cooperative relationship between parents that might reduce barriers to cooperative parenting. In addition, education programs and services regarding adequate parenting, including Parents' Fair Share, should be extended to nonmarital couples, including nonresident fathers are also suggested.