Fathers’ Involvement and Young Children’s Behavior in Fragile Families

Marcia J. Carlson, Columbia University
Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University

This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine how fathers’ involvement with children is associated with children’s behavioral problems (n=3,066). We focus separately on resident and non-resident fathers and examine fathers’ spending time with children, sharing responsibility for child-related tasks, and engaging in specific activities. We consider factors that may moderate the effects (such as father ‘quality’), and we examine whether there are reciprocal effects between father involvement and child behavior. Overall, we find strong and consistent evidence that fathers’ involvement at children’s age 3 is associated with behavioral scores at age 5 for fathers living with their children. For non-resident fathers, involvement does not appear to be salient for children’s behavior overall, but we find some evidence that the benefits of father involvement may be moderated by fathers’ anti-social behavior. We discuss the implications of our findings for research and public policy.

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Presented in Session 78: Fathers and Children