On average, men are more likely than women to use drugs, using them more frequently and in greater amounts. Men are 2-5 times more likely to develop substance use disorder than women and are more likely than women to die from complications of alcohol and tobacco use. Young men in particular are at highest risk for illicit substance use and binge alcohol drinking.
This study focuses on disadvantaged fathers—minority status, single, younger, and of lower income status—in particular, and their utilization of treatment services. Only 10.8% of all people in the U.S. needing substance use treatment receive it, the majority of whom are women—despite men’s higher rate of treatment need; overall, men are less likely than women to seek medical or behavioral healthcare. This study explores disadvantaged fathers’ help-seeking behavior for substance use.
The data used in this study were obtained from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS). A national study examining the consequences of non-marital childbearing among low income families and households, the FFCWS is a longitudinal study with data starting from 1998 designed to increase the understanding of non-marital child bearing, welfare reform, and the role of fathers. The independent and dependent variables for this study were gathered at the fathers’ baseline and 1-year follow-up interview (i.e., when the focal child was approximately 1 years old). The analysis plan consisted of conducting One-way analysis of variance and independent sample t-tests. Post hoc comparisons were conducted to determine which groups were significantly different.
When comparing disadvantaged fathers’ alcohol, cigarette, and drug usage and help seeking behavior, there were several differences. The tests revealed a higher rate of drinking alcohol in the past month among young, White, and married fathers. The tests also revealed that White and non-married fathers had a higher rate of binge alcohol use in the past month. The tests revealed a higher rate of smoking cigarettes in the past month among fathers who were young, Black, non-married, un- or under-employed, and with lower income. The tests revealed a higher rate of marijuana use in the past month among fathers who were young, White, Black, and un- or under-employed. Fathers in need of substance use treatment were likely to be younger, non-married, and un- or under-employed. Among those fathers in need of treatment, those who sought or accessed treatment services tended to be non-married and un- or under-employed.
Conclusions and Implications:
The transition to fatherhood can be a stressful time, leading to substance use as a coping strategy, and paternal substance use has effects on families and children. This study showed fathers who were younger, unmarried, and un- or under-employed had greater need of substance use treatment. It is imperative that social work practitioners target prevention strategies and tailor treatment options to best meet the needs of these fathers. This study’s results call for further research on other characteristics or resources that make fathers more likely to access treatment.