Social Fathers in Fragile Families: Involvement and Associations with Child Well-Being

Sharon Bzostek, Princeton University

Previous research documents that married stepfathers tend to be less involved than married biological fathers with their co-resident children, and suggests that such lower levels of engagement may translate into worse outcomes for children. Little research to date has examined the well-being of children born to unwed parents living with one biological parent and that parent’s romantic partner. This paper uses longitudinal data from a recent cohort of children born to unwed mothers to examine how these young children fare when their mothers form new cohabiting or marital relationships. After comparing levels and types of involvement by mothers’ new partners (social fathers) with that of biological fathers, I ask if and how such involvement is associated with behavioral and health outcomes for these young children, and identify potential mediating factors.

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Presented in Session 41: Family Transition and Child Wellbeing