Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, factors related to Black, single mothers (N=470) 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 and welfare receipt measured at Time 1; family income, economic hardship, interparental relations, father involvement, maternal depressive symptoms, and mothers' parenting at Time 2; and child behavioral problems and cognitive development at Time 3. For missing responses, this study used Bayesian multiple imputation. To test the hypotheses, structural equation modeling was used.
Results: Regarding the mediating effects (the structural parameters in the structural equation models), the frequency of fathers' contact with their children was associated with the children's cognitive and behavioral development through its associations with maternal depressive symptoms and the mothers' parenting. Nonresident fathers' more adequate parenting activities were also associated with better child outcomes transmitted through more adequate mothers' parenting. In addition, the quality of the mother-father relationship was associated with the children's behavior problems indirectly through its effect on mothers' parenting practices. More explicitly, these results indicate that more contact between nonresident fathers and their children and more adequate fathers' parenting influenced better developmental outcomes in this study through their beneficial effects on the mothers' psychological and parenting functioning and that mothers who perceived their own relationship with their children's father to be of higher quality scored higher on the measure of parenting adequacy.
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.