Abstract: Maternal Re-Partnering and Non-Resident Father Investments in Children (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12947 Maternal Re-Partnering and Non-Resident Father Investments in Children

Sunday, January 17, 2010: 11:45 AM
Pacific Concourse G (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Lawrence M. Berger, PhD , University of Wisconsin-Madison, Associate Professor, Madison, WI
Callie Langton , University of Wisconsin-Madison, Doctoral Student, Madison, WI
Background and Purpose: Research suggests that paternal re-partnering through marriage or cohabitation is associated with reductions in both the amount of time fathers spend with their non-resident children and the economic support they provide. Whereas the literature on paternal re-partnering and non-resident father investments in children is relatively well developed, few studies have examined the influence of maternal re-partnering on non-resident father investments. This paper examines associations of maternal re-partnering, in the form of new marriages and cohabitations, with changes in non-resident father investments in children vis--vis both visitation and formal child support payments.

Methods: We utilize longitudinal data drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth on approximately 5,500 children who spent some part of their childhood living with a single mother. We focus on 5 measures of father investment: (1) whether the father has seen the child during the past year; (2) how often the father has seen the child during the past year; (3) whether the father pays any (formal) child support; and (4) the amount of child support the father pays. We also investigate whether maternal re-partnering is associated with changes in the geographic distance between fathers' homes and those of their children. Our analytic approach consists of both standard regressions and fixed effects models. The standard regressions (ordinary least squares and logit models) assess whether there are static differences in levels of non-resident father investments in children by whether children's mothers have remarried or formed new cohabiting unions, as opposed to having remained single. The fixed effects models assess the extent to which fathers' investment behaviors change when mothers enter into new partnerships and have the advantage of adjusting for unobserved time invariant child and family characteristics when estimating these associations.

Results: Preliminary results suggest that, on average, children whose mothers have re-partnered spend less time with their biological father and are less likely to see their biological father over the course of a year than are children living with a single-mother who has not re-partnered. Fixed effects results also reveal that both the likelihood that a non-resident father has seen his child in the past year and the number of times the father has seen the child decrease after a mother re-partners. In addition, we find that the geographic distance between fathers' homes and those of their children increases when mothers re-partner and that this is only partially explained by residential moves on the part of the mother; non-resident fathers are also more likely to move away from their children after a maternal re-partnership. Yet, we find little evidence of associations between maternal re-partnering and child support payments.

Conclusions: Given that a sizeable proportion of children will experience maternal re-partnering, coupled with evidence that non-resident father involvement may positively influence children's wellbeing, it is crucial to understand how maternal re-partnering affects non-resident fathers' investments in children. Implications of this research for public policies regarding marriage and family formation, as well as for designing programs to promote child wellbeing in complex families, are discussed.