Couple Beliefs about Father Involvement and the Union Transitions of Unmarried Parents

Bryndl Hohmann-Marriott, Pennsylvania State University

Expectations for how fathers should be involved in their children’s lives can impact the parents’ relationship. These expectations may be particularly meaningful for fragile unmarried families. Using the first two waves of the Fragile Families survey, this paper investigates the two partners’ beliefs about the importance of fathers’ caregiving, financial support, and disciplining their child. When partners believe that fathers’ caregiving is important, they are less likely to end their union. The couple is also less likely to marry if only the woman believes fathers’ caregiving is not very important. This suggests that when parents value fathers’ day-to-day, hands-on involvement, they have a stronger commitment to their relationship. In addition, it appears that women’s beliefs about father involvement have a stronger impact on the relationship than men’s beliefs. A comparison of married, cohabiting, and dating couples finds that expectations have an equivalent impact on all three union types.

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Presented in Session 87: Cohabitation