Shared Caretaking in Disadvantaged Families: When Are Fathers Involved and What Does This Mean to Parents?

Maureen Waller, Cornell University

This analysis draws on two waves of in-depth interviews with mothers and fathers when their child was age one and four to provide new information about fathers’ co-parenting in low-income families. Interviews with new parents living in California suggest that three types of co-parenting situations emerged early in their child’s life which were related to the status of their relationship as a couple and to the relative economic and personal stability of each parent. These co-parenting situations were often perceived differently by parents who framed stable co-parenting during this time as a commitment, early co-parenting as an exchange of resources, and later co-parenting as compensation for mothers’ reduced share in parenting. Particular preferences for child support, custody, and visitation also appeared within each situation, with implications for policies directed toward low-income families.

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Presented in Session 118: Nonresidential Fathers and Family Relationships