Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, factors related to urban single mothers with low income (N=1172) and their children born between 1998 and 2000 were analyzed. The data are drawn from mothers' three-year follow-up survey (Time 3) and three-year in-home study (Home 3). Included in the model were mother-reported data regarding nonresident fathers' payment and the informal financial support in Time 3; mothers' economic hardship, parental stress, and parenting adequacy in Time 3; and children's behavior problems and cognitive development in Home 3. For missing responses, this study used maximum likelihood estimation. To test the hypotheses, structural equation modeling was used.
Results: The final model indicates that nonresident father's child support payment is significantly but indirectly related to the children's behavior problems and cognitive development transmitted through mothers' parental stress and parenting adequacy. It is worthy of note that the informal support from others is associated negatively with mothers' economic hardship and parental stress and positively with mothers' parenting adequacy, which are, in turn, significantly associated with children's behavior problems and cognitive development. Regarding total effects, mothers' parenting adequacy, parental stress, and economic hardship are the most influential predictors of both children's behavioral problems and cognitive development. Nonresident fathers' payment and the informal support are also found to have moderate but significant influences on children's outcomes.
Conclusions and Implications: These results suggest that current policy initiatives such as the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007 to promote responsible fatherhood and father involvement on behalf of financial support should be encouraged. It is noteworthy to emphasize that fathers' financial support is found to be beneficial to the mothers and, through the mothers, to the children. Findings also suggest that the informal support is beneficial to alleviate low-income single mothers' economic hardship, which plays a key role for mothers' parenting and their children's development. Policy and program interventions, therefore, should focus on reducing economic hardship and increasing economic well-being in single-mother families.