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Nonresident Fathers’ Involvement  Decreases Adolescent Delinquency

Study shows that nonresident fathers who had more regular contact and conversations with their children and who took greater responsibility for their children’s care and behaviors had adolescents who showed relative decreases over a 16-month period in their levels of delinquency and problem behavior.

  • According to a study published in the journal Child Development, a growing number of children in the United States are spending some or all of their childhood living apart from their biological fathers due to increasingly high divorce rates and nonmarital births. Various studies have shown that children who grow up with two biological parents present in the home develop more positively in a variety of ways, including lower involvement in problem behaviors and delinquency. Other studies have shown that youth who are brought up in single-mother homes tend to engage in higher levels of negative behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, violence, illegal activities, and extended school absences than those youth who are brought up in married families. For this particular study, the researchers aimed to examine the long-term relationship between nonresident father involvement (defined for this study as “contact and responsibility for children’s care and behavior”), and adolescent involvement in delinquent activities. Data was drawn from a subsample of families from a previous study of low-income families and communities in the wake of the welfare reform. The sample included over 2,000 low-income children and adolescents and their mothers from neighborhoods in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. For this study, they narrowed the sample down to just early adolescents (ages 10-14). The researchers found that higher nonresident father involvement seemed to predict subsequent decreases in their adolescents’ delinquency, particularly for youth with prior involvement in delinquent activities. That is, father involvement was protective among youth with relatively high levels of delinquency at the time of the study. The researchers also noted that as adolescent delinquency increased, the nonresident fathers’ involvement also increased, which suggests that non-resident fathers may initially increase their involvement as a result of problematic behavior in their adolescent (this was particularly true with African American families). [i]


[i]Reciprocal Longitudinal Relations Between Nonresident Father Involvement and Adolescent Delinquency, Child Development, Vol. 78, No. 1, February 2007, pp. 132-147.


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