Becoming Step-Fathers: Union Formation with Single Mothers

Sharon Sassler, Cornell University

While much of the current attention to promoting marriage focuses on barriers to marriage among single mothers, relatively little is known about the attributes of men willing to partner with single mothers. I use data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth to examine what characterizes men who become step-fathers, the type of union into which they enter, and the tempo of progression into coresidence. No previous studies have examined whether the pace of progression differs for men entering into step-fathering relationships relative to those forming relationships with women who do not have coresidential children. Preliminary results indicate men are more likely to enter into unions with childless women. Those who partner with single mothers are more likely to cohabit than marry. Furthermore, progression into coresidential unions is considerably more rapid for men becoming step-fathers than for those entering unions with women with no children.

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Presented in Session 163: Transition into Fatherhood