The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Factors Associated With Paternity Establishment in Non-Married Couples

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Yookyong Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Jay Fagan, PhD, Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Background and purpose: Child support has received much attention from researchers and policy makers because it is one of the major income sources that may affect the wellbeing of children in single-parent households. For more than fifty years of its history, child support has been examined for its effects on poverty, fertility outcomes, labor market participation, child wellbeing and outcomes, and father involvement. Also, researchers have started investigating the relationship between child support and welfare (i.e., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). One of the first steps to enforce child support is to establish paternity. While many studies examined the effects of child support on families, income, and paternal involvement, little has done to investigate what paternal characteristics are associated with establishing paternity. This study used a large, longitudinal data set to examine the factors related to paternity establishment in non-married couples after the birth of the focal child. A risk perspective and a prospective approach were used to contribute to the existing literature.

Methods: This study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study and examined a subsample of families for which complete data were available on all variables that were used in the analyses (n = 2,004). The paternity establishment was measured at the first-year follow-up. Baseline paternal factors were used to predict the paternity establishment. These factors included age, education, earnings, health, drug use, support to mother during pregnancy, importance of fatherhood, thought of abortion, criminal history, and residency status.

Results: At the bivariate level, it was found that fathers who reported lower level of education, poorer health, and drug use, those who thought of abortion during pregnancy, who were in jail at baseline, and who earned lower income were less likely to have established paternity. Also, nonresidential fathers were less likely to have established paternity. Fathers who supported mothers during the pregnancy and those who regarded fatherhood important were more likely to have established paternity by the first-year follow-up. White and Hispanic fathers were more likely to establish paternity than Black. The multivariate analysis results indicated that fathers who had lower level of education, reported poorer health, thought of abortion during pregnancy, and were in jail were less likely to establish paternity. Conversely, fathers who had higher earnings, provided support to mothers, and thought the fatherhood important were more likely to have established paternity.

Conclusion and implications: There should be programs that support fathers with low level of education, poor health, and criminal history. Policies that make work pay should be expanded to help fathers to be more financially secure. Moreover, counseling services that assist non-married couples, especially those who have considered an abortion, to positively view their babies are necessary. The findings also emphasize the importance of fatherhood initiative programs. The findings imply that it is important to recognize risk factors that fathers face and help them reduce such risk so that they could be ready to take up the responsibility of fatherhood and start getting involved in their child’s life from the beginning.