, 48:593 | Cite as

Pathways of Early Fatherhood, Marriage, and Employment: A Latent Class Growth Analysis

  • Jacinda K. DariotisEmail author
  • Joseph H. Pleck
  • Nan M. Astone
  • Freya L. Sonenstein


In the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), young fathers include heterogeneous subgroups with varying early life pathways in terms of fatherhood timing, the timing of first marriage, and holding full-time employment. Using latent class growth analysis with 10 observations between ages 18 and 37, we derived five latent classes with median ages of first fatherhood below the cohort median (26.4), constituting distinct early fatherhood pathways representing 32.4% of NLSY men: (A) Young Married Fathers, (B) Teen Married Fathers, (C) Young Underemployed Married Fathers, (D) Young Underemployed Single Fathers, and (E) Young Later-Marrying Fathers. A sixth latent class of men who become fathers around the cohort median, following full-time employment and marriage (On-Time On-Sequence Fathers), is the comparison group. With sociodemographic background controlled, all early fatherhood pathways show disadvantage in at least some later-life circumstances (earnings, educational attainment, marital status, and incarceration). The extent of disadvantage is greater when early fatherhood occurs at relatively younger ages (before age 20), occurs outside marriage, or occurs outside full-time employment. The relative disadvantage associated with early fatherhood, unlike early motherhood, increases over the life course.


Early fatherhood Young fathers Men’s employment Marriage 



This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health – NICHD: PO1 HDD45610-03. Part of the work reported here was also supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Project No. ILLU-45-0366 to Joseph H. Pleck. The authors pay special thanks to Stephanie Lanza for her methodological wisdom and invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of the paper.


  1. Alexander, K. L., & Reilly, T. W. (1981). Estimating the effects of marriage timing on educational attainment: Some procedural issues and substantive clarifications. American Journal of Sociology, 87, 143–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison, P. (2000). Multiple imputation for missing data: A cautionary tale. Sociological Methods and Research, 28, 301–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood. A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arnett, J. J. (2006). Emerging adulthood in Europe: A response to Bynner. Journal of Youth Studies, 9, 111–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Astone, N. M. (1993). Are adolescent mothers just single mothers. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 3, 353–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Astone, N., Dariotis, J., Sonenstein, F., Pleck, J. H., & Hynes, K. (2010). Men’s work effort and the transition to fatherhood. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 31(1), 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Astone, N. M., & Upchurch, D. (1994). Forming a family, leaving school early and earning a GED: A racial and cohort comparison. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 759–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barber, J. S., & Emens, A. (2006). The intersection among unintended, premarital and teenage childbearing in the United States (Population Studies Center Research Report 06–608). Ann Arbor, MI: Population Studies Center.Google Scholar
  9. Bartz, K. W., & Nye, F. I. (1970). Early marriage: A propositional formulation. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 32, 258–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beutel, A. M. (2000). The relationship between adolescent nonmarital childbearing and educational expectations: A cohort and period comparison. The Sociological Quarterly, 41, 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bynner, J. (2005). Rethinking the youth phase of the life-course: The case for emerging adulthood. Journal of Youth Studies, 8, 367–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Call, V. R. A., & Otto, L. B. (1977). Age at marriage as a mobility contingency: Estimates for the Nye-Bernardo model. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 39, 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cherlin, A. J., & Furstenberg, Frank F., Jr. (1994). Stepfamilies in the United States: A reconsideration. Annual Review of Sociology, 20, 359–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dariotis, J. K., Pleck, J. H., Astone, N. M., & Sonenstein, F. L. (2009, November). Heterogeneity of men who postpone fatherhood: Latent class growth analysis. Paper presented at the 2009 Annual Conference for the National Council on Family Relations, San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  15. Fomby, P., & Cherlin, A. J. (2007). Family instability and child well-being. American Sociological Review, 72, 18–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Foster, E. M., Jones, D., & Hoffman, S. D. (1998). The economic impact of nonmarital childbearing: How are older, single mothers faring? Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 163–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Furstenberg, F. F. (1991). As the pendulum swings: Teenage childbearing and social concern. Family Relations, 40, 127–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Philip Morgan, S. (1987). Adolescent mothers in later life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Geronimus, A. T. (1994). The weathering hypothesis and the health of African American women and infants: Implications for reproductive strategies and policy analysis. In G. Sen & R. C. Snow (Eds.), Power and decision: The social control of reproduction (pp. 77–100). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Glauber, R. (2007). Marriage and the motherhood wage penalty among African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 951–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glauber, R. (2008). Race and gender in families and at work: The fatherhood wage premium. Gender & Society, 22, 8–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hagestad, G. O., & Call, V. R. A. (2007). Pathways to childlessness: A life course perspective. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 1338–1361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hao, L., Astone, N. M., & Cherlin, A. J. (2007). Effects of child support and welfare policies on nonmarital teenage childbearing and motherhood. Population and Policy Review, 26, 235–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heuveline, P., Timberlake, J. M., & Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (2003). Shifting childrearing to single mothers: Results from 17 Western countries. Population and Development Review, 29, 47–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jaffee, S. R. (2002). Pathways to adversity in young adulthood among early childbearers. Journal of Family Psychology, 16(1), 38–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kerckhoff, A. C., & Parrow, A. A. (1979). The effect of early marriage on the educational attainment of young men. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 97–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kreider, R. M. (2007). Living arrangements of children: 2004 (Current Population Reports P70-114). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  28. Lamb, M. E., & Elster, A. (1986). Adolescent fathers. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  29. Lawlor, D. A., & Shaw, M. (2002). Too much too young? Teenage pregnancy is not a public health problem. International Journal of Epidemiology, 31, 552–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lerman, R. I., & Ooms, T. J. (Eds.). (1993). Young unwed fathers: Changing roles and emerging policies. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Marini, M. M. (1978). The transition to adulthood: Sex differences in educational attainment and age at marriage. American Sociological Review, 43, 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Marsiglio, W., & Cohan, M. (1997). Young fathers and child development. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 227–244, 373–376). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Marsiglio, W. (1986). Teenage fatherhood: High school completion and educational attainment. In A. Elster & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Adolescent fatherhood (pp. 67–87). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  34. Marsiglio, W. (1987). Adolescent fathers in the United States: Their initial living arrangements, marital experience, and educational outcomes. Family Planning Perspectives, 19, 240–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mason, K. O., & Jensen, A.-M. (1995). Introduction. In K. O. Mason & A.-M. Jensen (Eds.), Gender and family change in industrialized countries (pp. 1–16). New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  36. McLanahan, S. (2004). Diverging destinies: How children are faring under the second demographic transition. Demography, 41, 607–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McLanahan, S., & Carlson, M. S. (2004). Fathers in fragile families. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (4th ed., pp. 222–271). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  38. McLanahan, S., & Sandefur, G. (1994). Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Moen, P., Kelly, E., & Huang, R. (2008). Fit inside the work-family black box: An ecology of the life course, cycles of control reframing. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81, 411–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moffitt, R. A. (1998). The effect of welfare on marriage and fertility. In R. A. Moffitt (Ed.), Welfare, the family, and reproductive behavior: Research perspectives (pp. 50–97). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  41. Moffitt, R. A., Reville, R., & Winkler, A. E. (1998). Beyond single mothers: Cohabitation and marriage in the AFDC program. Demography, 35, 259–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moore, K. A., Manlove, J., Glei, D. A., & Morrison, D. R. (1998). Nonmarital school-age motherhood: Family, individual, and school characteristics. Journal of Adolescent Research, 13, 433–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moore, K., & Waite, L. (1981). Marital dissolution, early motherhood, and early marriage. Social Forces, 60, 20–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nock, S. (1998). The consequences of premarital fatherhood. American Sociological Review, 63, 250–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oppenheimer, V. K. (2003). Cohabiting and marriage during young men’s career-development process. Demography, 40, 127–149.Google Scholar
  46. Percheski, C., & Wildeman, C. (2008). Becoming a dad: Employment trajectories of married, cohabiting and nonresident fathers. Social Science Quarterly, 89, 482–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ruggles, S. (1997). The rise of divorce and separation in the United States, 1880–1990. Demography, 34, 455–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schoen, R., Astone, N. M., Rothert, K., Standish, N. J., & Kim, Y. J. (2002). Women’s employment, marital happiness, and divorce. Social Forces, 81, 643–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sigle-Rushton, W. (2003). Youth fatherhood and subsequent disadvantage in the United Kingdom. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 735–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacinda K. Dariotis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joseph H. Pleck
    • 2
  • Nan M. Astone
    • 1
  • Freya L. Sonenstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive HealthThe Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human and Community DevelopmentThe University of Illinois at Urbana–ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations