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Counting and Serving Never-Married Families. Fall 2007. Presenters:. Minnesota Fathers & Families Network University of Minnesota Extension Family Relations Hosted with support from the regional Minn. Initiative Foundations. University of Minnesota Extension.

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Counting and serving never married families

Counting and Serving Never-MarriedFamilies

Fall 2007



Minnesota Fathers & Families Network

University of Minnesota ExtensionFamily Relations

Hosted with support from

the regional Minn.

Initiative Foundations

University of minnesota extension

University of Minnesota Extension

  • The major outreach arm of the University of Minnesota

  • The Family Relations Team offers:

    • Professional Development

    • Resources for parents of teens

    • Parent Education resources

    • Education for family transition: Parents Forever, We Agree: Creating a Parenting Plan, Padres para siempre

Counting and serving never married families

  • training events

  • news

  • educational resources

  • public policy

Counting and serving never married families

Why Fathers Matter









Counting and serving never married families

The Best Part of Being a Dad“cuddling up at nightafter reading a bedtimestory and getting a bighug and ‘I love you,Daddy’ just makes theday worthwhile”

Diane and kevin

Diane and Kevin

  • Read Part I of the case study

  • In groups of three or four discuss the questions at the end

  • Be prepared to talk about your small group discussion

Your discussion

Your discussion

  • What strengths do Diane and Kevin have?

  • What challenges?

  • What work would you do with Diane and Kevin?

  • How would you help Kevin as a father?

Setting the context do we count fathers

Setting the Context:Do We Count Fathers

Two Different Views of Fatherhood:

The Involved Father

Fathers in the Shadows

The involved father

The Involved Father

Changes in the Value of Different Fatherhood Roles

  • Fathers rated as very important

  • Show love & affection 90%

  • Provide safety & protection 88%

  • Provide financial care 73%

The involved father1

The Involved Father

  • Involvement Activities 0-4 year olds

  • Daily to 1-2 times a week

    Holds & comforts child 98%

    Plays interactive games 96%

    Sets & enforces rules 95%

    Helps with dressing, toileting,

    makes meals & puts to bed 90%

Fathers in the shadows

Fathers in the Shadows

Paucity of data about numerous groups of men including:

Fathers in the shadows1

Fathers in the Shadows

  • Fathers of children born to teen mothers: 27% did not establish paternity

  • Incarcerated fathers: 4,600 estimated in Minnesota

  • Education level of fathers is related to fertility rate

    • Fathers w/college degree = 0.9 children

    • Fathers without HS diploma = 1.8 children

Fathers in the shadows2

Fathers in the Shadows

Multiple Partner Fertility = 15% of men by age 40. This is likely to increase with the current rate of non-marital births increasing.

Young fathers with low education status and two or more households are not able to financially support children in these family structures.

Fathers in the shadows3

Fathers in the Shadows

  • Among custodial parents in U.S., 2001

    • 31.2% of mothers, never married

    • 20.3% of fathers, never married

  • Families with children, percent married

    • Highest percentage: UT82.9%

    • Minnesota77.4%

    • National average72.9%

    • Lowest percentage: MS65.5%

Are never married families visible

Are never-married families visible?

Diane and kevin part ii

Diane and Kevin, part II

  • What do you think about Diane and Kevin’s situation after learning this information?

  • Have your thoughts about their strengths and challenges changed?

  • How would you change how you would work with Diane and Kevin?

What does research tell us about fathers like kevin and his family

What does research tell us about fathers like Kevin and his family?

  • New research findings from the Fragile Family and Child Well-Being (FFCW) study.


Fragile families

Fragile Families

  • Non-married parents raising a child together

  • Complex families in which one or both parents:

    • Has responsibility for children with whom they do not live


    • Shares residence with non-biological children

What do you think of the term fragile

What do you think of the term “fragile”?

Why the ffcw study

Why the FFCW Study?

  • Researchers looked at the 1997 National Survey of America’s Families

    • Analyzed longitudinal data

    • Found that as children with non-married parents grew older, father involvement declined sharply

Counting and serving never married families

  • Headed by well-known and reputable social science researchers

  • Targets both mothers and fathers

  • Takes culture into account

  • Has a high response rate

  • Answers

    • What are the conditions and capabilities of unmarried parents, especially fathers?

    • What is the nature of the relationships between unmarried parents?

Study design

Study Design

  • Started in 1998

  • Followed a group of newborns in 20 U.S. cities for five years.

  • Used mixed methods:

    • Quantitative: Various questionnaires completed by parents and by trained observers of the child

    • Qualitative: Interviews with parents with open ended questions on a list of topics

For the quantitative study

For the Quantitative Study

  • Sample: 4,898 births

    • 3,712 to unmarried parents

    • 1,186 to married parents

  • Selected randomly from 75 hospitals in 20 cities across the United States

Data collection

Data Collection

  • Occurred at four points

    • New mothers initially interviewed in the hospital and fathers in the hospital or at another location

    • Mothers and fathers interview by telephone again at the child’s first, third and fifth birthdays

  • Data from first three points are currently available

  • Unit of analysis was “focal child.”

Parent interviews focused on

Parent interviews focused on:

  • Mother & father relationship

  • New partner relationships

  • Parenting behavior

  • Marriage attitudes

  • Child well-being and characteristics

  • Social support and family relationships

  • Demographic characteristics, health (mental and physical)

  • Economic and employment status

  • Incarceration

  • Neighborhood characteristics

  • Program participation

Response rates

Response Rates

For non-marital births

  • At baseline: 87% of mothers and 75% of eligible fathers (mother had to be interviewed to be eligible)

  • By year three: 88% of mothersand 65% of eligible fathers continued to participate

For the qualitative studies

For the Qualitative Studies

  • Baseline in-depth interviews in seven cities with a subset of FFCW participants

    • Oakland, Austin, Baltimore, Detroit, Newark, Philadelphia, and Richmond

    • A random sample of 250 non-marital and 75 marital births within three racial groups (Black, Latino & Non-Hispanic White)

    • Response rates of mothers exceeded 90%, of married or cohabiting fathers exceeded 90%; and of unmarried fathers 75%.

Study limitations

Study Limitations

  • Births were in urban areas.

  • Did a much better job of including fathers, but still only reached 76% of unmarried fathers.

  • Restricted access to adolescent parents by the hospital. Teen mothers and fathers were under-represented.

What can we learn about non married parents like diane and kevin from the ffcw study

What can we learn about non-married parents like Diane and Kevin from the FFCW study?

At the time of birth, the vast majority of new unmarried parents are committed to one another and have high hopes of raising their child together:

  • 82% were romantically involved

  • About 4 out of 5 fathers contributed financially during pregnancy

  • 3 out of 4 fathers visited the mother in the hospital

    McLanahan, Garfinkel, Reichman, & Teitler, 2004

Relationship status of fragile families

Relationship Status of Fragile Families





McLanahan et al, 2004.

More encouraging findings at or near the baby s birth

More encouraging findings at or near the baby’s birth

  • Stated positive future intentions:

    • 80% of babies had father’s last name

    • 80% of fathers planned to contribute financially

    • 91% of babies had father’s name on the birth certificate

    • 94% of mothers wanted the father involved

      McLanahan, Garfinkel, Reichman, & Teitler, 2004

More baseline information

More baseline information

  • Almost 80% of cohabiting mothers and 82% of fathers intended to marry their partner

  • More likely to have children with more than one partner

    • 43% of unmarried mothers have children with at least 2 men while only 15% of married mothers have children with different fathers.

      McLanahan, Garfinkel, Reichman, & Teitler, 2004

Poverty and fragile families

Poverty and Fragile Families

  • Average incomes:

    • Mothers $21,500

    • Fathers $18,000

  • Unmarried parents 2 Xs as likely to live in poverty when compared to married parents

    • 40% of unmarried parents

    • 20% of married parents





Capabilities of non married parents at baseline

Capabilities of non-married parents at baseline

  • Over 40% of mothers and 35% of fathers lacked a high school degree or GED

  • Risk factors:

    • 6% of mothers and 12% of father had drug or alcohol problems

    • 6% of mothers reported some violent or abusive behavior on the part of the father towards her (likely under-reported)

      McLanahan, Garfinkel, Reichman, & Teitler, 2004

What happens to father involvement in fragile families over time

What happens to father involvement in Fragile Families over time?

Fathers risk factors in fragile families

Fathers’ risk factors in Fragile Families

  • Study by Waller and Swisher, 2006

  • Examined how these 3 risk factors related to relationship status and father involvement over time

    • Physical abuse

    • Alcohol and substance use

    • Incarceration

Prevalence of father risk factors

Prevalence of Father Risk Factors





Physical abuse

Physical abuse

  • Mothers’ reports of ever being cut, bruised or seriously hurt in a fight with the father in the one year follow-up.

    • 11% reported violence

    • Does not capture emotional and sexual abuse

  • Most often-cited reason for ending the couple relationship.

Drug and alcohol use

Drug and alcohol use

  • Reports of both mother and father of fathers’ drug or alcohol use interference with daily life – 17.6% of fathers

  • Use was not always considered problematic.

  • Mothers were often involved in drug use as well.

  • Parents often decided to stay together and work the problems out.



  • Most common risk factor in the study.

    • Drug-related offenses

    • Eroded the mother’s trust in the father and strained the couple relationship.

    • Most parents believed that seeing the parent incarcerated was not a good thing.

Relationship status 3 years after the birth of the child

Relationship status 3 years after the birth of the child

  • Research suggests that romantic relationships mediate father involvement.

  • Relationship Status was connected to risk factors.

Ending the relationship

Ending the relationship

  • Father’s risk factors made couple relationships particularly unstable.

  • Mother’s reasons for ending relationships

    • 1st: physical abuse

    • 2nd: substance use.

  • Decision often resulted after reaching a “threshold” of negative interactions.

  • Father involvement was contingent on the quality of the couple’s relationships.

Strategies used in couple relationships

Strategies used in couple relationships

  • Couples decided to stay together and looked for ways to respond to risk behaviors.

  • Parallel parenting: parents maintained separate relationships with their children.

  • Fathers withdrew from the mother and children; for some it helped maintain a sense of control.

  • Mother used protective gate-keeping.

Parenting apart

Parenting Apart

The continuum of parenting relationships

Cooperative co-parenting

Parallel Parenting





  • Fathers with risk factors were less likely to have a romantic relationship with their children’s mothers.

  • As a result of this poor relationship quality, fathers were less likely to be involved with their children.

  • Physical abuse was consistently and significantly associated with parents’ relationship status and father involvement.

More findings

More findings

  • Mothers selected out of relationships that they deemed “unhealthy” and monitor ed father’s access to children.

    • Especially in cases of physical abuse

    • When fathers tried to stay involved, their efforts often failed.

  • Drug and alcohol abuse were more common than physical abuse.

    • Fathers attempts to change behavior were often unsuccessful.

Counting and serving never married families


  • Incarceration was the most common risk factor and played an important role in family life:

    • Not viewed as harmful as physical abuse

    • Did create problems in terms of losing contact and passive withdrawal

Counting and serving never married families

The Best Part of Being a Dad“watching my daughtergrow and develop intoa fine young lady whohas morals, values andrespect for others”

What about younger parents

What about younger parents?

  • Study by Gee, McNerney, Reiter and Leaman (2007)

  • Looked at the predictors of father involvement and in-kind support 3 years after a child’s birth among fathers of children born to adolescent and young adult mothers



  • Subset of FFCW dataset

    • 2,850 mothers under age 25 and 2,215 fathers at baseline

    • 87% of mothers and 81% of fathers were interviewed at the 3-year follow-up

  • Relationships status: saw the same pattern as shown in the earlier slide

    • Fewer were romantically involved and slightly higher percentage were married



  • Relationship quality

  • Father involvement

  • In-Kind support

    • Mothers not cohabiting reported on father responsibility

Results for father involvement

Results for father involvement

  • African American fathers were less involved overall.

  • Fathers with lower incomes at baseline were more involved at 3 years.

  • Both baseline and 3-year relationship quality variables were significantly associated with father involvement.

  • The strongest predictor of father-involvement at the 3-year follow-up was father-child cohabitation.

Results of father s in kind support

Results of father’s in-kind support

  • Race was significantly associated with fathers’ in-kind support at three years.

    • African American and Latino fathers provided less in-kind supports.

  • In-kind support of the father was more likely if the mother reported a romantic relationship with the child’s father

  • In-kind support was less likely, if mother was involved with a new partner.

Multiple partner fertility

Multiple partner fertility

  • Either or both members has a child(ren) from a prior relationship

  • Significant barrier to forming a enduring couple relationship

    • Less likely to marry

    • Greater apprehension about marriage

  • Often results in lack of trust and problems with commitment

Let s think about diane and kevin

Let’s think about Diane and Kevin

  • What risk factors does Kevin have that could reduce father involvement?

  • What about Diane?

  • What services might be useful?

What do fragile families say about their couple relationships

What do Fragile Families say about their couple relationships?

  • Based on Kathryn Edin’s work

  • Research Brief #17 (2003): The Retreat from Marriage among Low-Income Families

  • Used data from the Time, Love, Cash, Care and Children Study (TLC3) of FFCW project

Counting and serving never married families

In-depth interviews with 75 couples found they:

  • Hold positive view of marriage

  • Are postponing marriage

  • Reasons

    • Have financial concerns

    • Have relationship problems

    • Have timing issues

Counting and serving never married families

Financial Concerns

  • Being responsible, holding a job

  • Acquiring assets

  • Saving enough for a proper wedding

Counting and serving never married families

Relationship Problems

  • High standards – men are viewed as not being mature

  • Worries about sexual fidelity – very low trust

  • Perception that the relationship was not strong enough to last

Counting and serving never married families

Timing Issues

  • Not enough time to get married right now

  • Need a stretch of uninterrupted time to plan the wedding

  • Did not discuss the obstacles to marriage – children’s needs, public assistance and ideological objections

Implications for practitioners

Implications for practitioners

  • Work on strengthening couple relationships and trust, including emphasis on the importance of sexual fidelity.

  • Identify ways to increase financial stability and asset accumulation to help couples meet their “high hopes”.

  • When staying together or marriage is dangerous or inappropriate, educational programs can help parents work together in raising their children.

  • Highest father involvement exists when children are young.

  • Reaching fathers at or near children’s births helps both mothers and fathers form and sustain a healthy family.

Let s look at one more part to diane and kevin s story

Let’s look at one more part to Diane and Kevin’s story

  • What would you do as a practitioner working with Diane and Kevin?

  • Discuss the two questions at the end of part III.

Your thoughts

Your thoughts

  • Based on the information that Sally received in the referral (parts 1 and 2 of the case study), what services and plan would you develop with Diane and Kevin?

  • What steps could Sally take to learn more about the issues in Diane and Kevin’s relationship that might pose risks for Diane, her daughter and Kevin?

When working with fragile families there are several principles to follow

When working with Fragile Families, there are several principles to follow:

  • Take a comprehensive approach

  • Protect against domestic abuse

  • Focus on family process not family form

  • Address attitudes and behaviors that can be changed

  • Build co-parenting skills

  • Be culturally competent

  • Meet the needs of fathers

Build in protection against domestic abuse

Build in protection against domestic abuse

  • Promote healthy, non-abusive relationships

  • Do no harm – do not do anything to exacerbate the risks

  • Go through a process of creating a protocol for domestic violence

  • Implement the protocol

In cases of domestic violence

In cases of domestic violence

  • Avoid giving sole or joint custody to batterers

  • Do not mandate mediation

  • Allow mothers and children to relocate to insure safety

  • Mothers should not be labeled uncooperative if they don’t want to co-parent

Counting and serving never married families

Take a comprehensive approach

  • Relationship education alone is too simple of a solution for many unmarried parents

  • Offer a helpful package of soft and hard services:

    • Soft: relationship skill workshops, financial literacy classes and peer support groups

    • Hard: job placement and training, housing, medical coverage and substance abuse treatment, if needed

  • Must get beyond establishing paternity and instituting child support orders

Some other thoughts on couples relationship education

Some other thoughts on couples/relationship education

  • About 1/3 to 1/2 of Fragile Families pose no risk for marriage

  • Be cautious of using traditional, marital education programs

  • Need to get beyond skill building to building self efficacy

  • Offer parenting education and co-parenting education in conjunction with couples education

Minnesota s fatherhood programs

Minnesota’s Fatherhood Programs

Minnesota has over100 programs thatwork to meet theneeds of men infamilies.

Men comprise less than 1/3 of all professional staff working in fatherhood programs.

Resources used by fathers

Resources used by Fathers

Percent of respondents

Minnesota s fatherhood programs1

Minnesota’s Fatherhood Programs

Services provided by 58 of Minnesota’s social service and educational programs for fathers.

Paternity establishment

Paternity Establishment

When a child is born to an unmarried mother in Minnesota, paternity can be decided in one of two ways:

(1) Both parents sign a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) and have it filed with the State Dept. of Health.

(2) A paternity action is made through court (Paternity Order).

Why is paternity establishment important?

Parental access to records

Parental Access to Records

Unless otherwise provided by the court:

  • Each party has the right of access to, and to receive copies of, school, medical, dental, religious training and other important records and information about the minor children…

  • Each party has the right to be informed by school officials about the children’s welfare, educational progress and status…

    (Statute Section 518.17, Sub.3)

Various statewide resources

Various Statewide Resources

  • “Unmarried Parents’ Guide…”

  • Supervised Visitation Network

  • Minn. Father’s Adoption Registry

  • The Men’s Line: 866-379-6367

    Find more resources at

Education from extension

Education from Extension

  • Parents Forever

  • We Agree: Creating a Parenting Plan

  • Padres Para Siempre



  • Promote image of fathers as nurturers

  • Include fathers in discourse around early childhood development and narrowing the achievement gap

  • Support & fund parenting education and services for fathers of young children

  • Count on mothers and women as allies for fathers

What can you do locally?

The best part of being a dad being capable of inciting raucous belly laughs in my child at will

The Best Part of Being a Dad“being capable of inciting raucous belly laughs in my child at will”

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