Abstract: Noncustodial Fathers, Instrumental Social Support, and Child Support Compliance (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Noncustodial Fathers, Instrumental Social Support, and Child Support Compliance

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Laveen A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Quentin Riser, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Daniel Meyer, PhD, Professor of Social Work, University of Wisconsin - Madison, WI
Lawrence Berger, PhD, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Vikrant Kamble, Doctoral Student, University Of Delaware, DE
Background: Research on child support compliance has nearly exclusively focused on individual factors within a social policy context, finding that compliance with child support orders is primarily related to noncustodial parents’ (NCP) abilities to pay as a function of income. Yet, there is evidence linking social support to both employment and noncustodial parents’ relationships with children. In this article we explore whether instrumental social support (the number of people who could loan money or provide a place to stay or a ride to an NCP) is potentially linked to child support compliance both directly and indirectly through earnings.

Data and Methods: Data were drawn from the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED). CSPED was supported by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). We use information from only those assigned to the control condition to ensure that our results would not be confounded by CSPED participation and because this represents the policy environment faced by NCPs in general. Data include information on children, relationships, economic stability, parent background, general well-being, and other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. A baseline survey of NCPs was conducted at the point of random assignment (when individuals entered the program), and a follow-up survey was timed such that each NCP would be surveyed about one year after baseline. We used data from the baseline survey and follow-up survey, merged with administrative records of earnings, employment, and child support from each participating state.

We hypothesize that social support will have both a direct effect on child support compliance and an indirect effect on compliance via increased earnings. We use a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) framework to test the significance of the hypothesized mediation model. The procedures implemented to test indirect effects were conducted in three steps, including fitting a measurement model, fitting a structural model, and implementing a bootstrap procedure to test the significance of the indirect effects associated with the hypothesized mediation model.

Results: We find evidence of a direct relationship between instrumental social support and child support compliance, but no evidence of indirect effects via increased earnings. Further examination of the items of which the instrumental support measure was comprised suggested a statistically significant direct relationship between the number of people who could provide a ride and compliance, though no statistically significant associations were found for the number of people who could loan $100 or provide a place to stay on compliance.

Conclusion and Implications: These findings suggest the importance of child support practitioners and policymakers considering not only individual factors, but also the contextual and relational factors of the social networks in which parents are embedded. Interventions that strengthen social ties and that affect transportation options may be particularly effective. These findings also call for researchers to expand the focus of their inquiry on NCPs to include multiple levels such as their families and broader informal and formal social networks.