The Second Time Around: Social Fathers in Fragile Families

Sharon Bzostek, Princeton University

Many children will spend part of their childhood living with a mother and social father (an unrelated man who is romantically involved with the child’s mother). While a large literature exists about the role and impact of married social fathers (stepfathers), previous research provides little information about cohabiting social fathers. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this paper examines the prevalence and characteristics of co-resident social fathers among infants and very young children. Preliminary results suggest that social fatherhood is not uncommon among unmarried mothers with very young children. They also suggest that mothers are very selective in their choice of social fathers. Mothers typically re-partner with men whose characteristics are superior to those of non-resident biological fathers and compare favorably with those of resident biological fathers.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Children and Youth, Adolescence, Parenting, Transition to Adulthood, Life Course