Child gender and father involvement in fragile families

Abstract

In this article, we use data from the first two waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine the effects of child gender on father involvement and to determine if gender effects differ by parents’ marital status. We examine several indicators of father involvement, including whether the father acknowledges “ownership” of the child, whether the parents live together when the child is one year old, and whether the father provides financial support when the child is one year old. We find some evidence that child gender is associated with unmarried father involvement around the time of the child’s birth: sons born to unmarried parents are more likely than daughters to receive the father’s surname, especially if the mother has no other children. However, one year after birth, we find very little evidence that child gender is related to parents’ living arrangements or the amount of time or money fathers invest in their children. In contrast, and consistent with previous research, fathers who are married when their child is born are more likely to live with a son than with a daughter one year after birth. This pattern supports an interpretation of child gender effects based on parental beliefs about the importance of fathers for the long-term development of sons.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Barnett, R.C. and G.K. Baruch. 1987. “Determinants of Fathers’ Participation in Family Work.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 49:29–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bracher, M., G. Santow, S.P. Morgan, and J. Trussell. 1993. “Marriage Dissolution in Australia: Models and Explanations.” Population Studies 47:403–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Carlson, M.J. and F.F. Furstenberg. 2006. “The Prevalence and Correlates of Multipartnered Fertility Among Urban U.S. Parents.” Journal of Marriage and Family 68:718–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Carlson, M. and S. McLanahan. 2004. “Early Father Involvement in Fragile Families.” Pp. 241–71 in Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement, edited by R. Day and M. Lamb. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Carlson, M., S. McLanahan, and J. Brooks-Gunn. 2005. “Unmarried But Not Absent: Fathers’ Involvement With Children After a Nonmarital Birth.” Working Paper No. 2005-07-FF. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University.

  6. Carlson, M.J., S. McLanahan, and P. England. 2004. “Union Formation and Stability in Fragile Families.” Demography 41:237–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Dahl, G.B. and E. Moretti. 2004. “The Demand for Sons: Evidence From Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage.” NBER Working Paper No. 10281. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Diekmann, A. and K. Schmidheiny. 2004. “Do Parents of Girls Have a Higher Risk of Divorce? An Eighteen-Country Study.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 66:651–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Katzev, A.R., R.L. Warner, and A.C. Acock. 1994. “Girls or Boys? Relationship of Child Gender to Marital Instability.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 56:89–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Lamb, M.E., J.H. Pleck, and J.A. Levine. 1987. “Effects of Increased Paternal Involvement on Fathers and Mothers.” Pp. 109–25 in Reassessing Fatherhood: New Observations on Fathers and the Modern Family, edited by C. Lewis and M. O’Brien. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lundberg, S., S. Pabilonia, and J. Ward-Batts. 2006. “Time Allocation of Parents and Investments in Sons and Daughters.” Working paper. Department of Economics, University of Washington.

  12. Lundberg, S. and E. Rose. 2003. “Child Gender and the Transition to Marriage.” Demography 40:333–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Mammen, K. 2005. “Fathers’ Time Investments in Children: Do Sons Get More?” Working paper. Department of Economics, Barnard College.

  14. Morgan, S.P., D.N. Lye, and G.A. Condran. 1988. “Sons, Daughters, and the Risk of Marital Disruption.” American Journal of Sociology 94:110–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Morgan, S.P. and M. Pollard. 2003. “Do Parents of Girls Really Have a Higher Risk of Divorce?” Working paper. Department of Sociology and Center for Demographic Studies, Duke University.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Mott, F.L. 1994. “Sons, Daughters and Fathers’ Absence: Differentials in Father-Leaving Probabilities and in Home Environments.” Journal of Family Issues 15:97–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Nepomnyaschy, L. and I. Garfinkel. 2006. “Child Support Enforcement and Fathers’ Contributions to Their Non-marital Children.” CRCW Working Paper No. 2006-09-FF. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University.

  18. Reichman, N.E., C. Hope, and N. Kelly. 2004. “Effects of Child Health on Parents’ Relationship Status.” Demography 43:569–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Reichman, N.E., J.O. Teitler, I. Garfinkel, and S.S. McLanahan. 2001. “Fragile Families: Sample and Design.” Children and Youth Services Review 23(4-5):303–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Snarey, J. 1993. How Fathers Care for the Next Generation: A Four-Decade Study. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Spanier, G.B. and P.C. Glick. 1981. “Marital Instability in the United States: Some Correlates and Recent Changes.” Family Relations 30:329–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Stafford, F.P. and J. Yeung. 2005. “The Distribution of Children’s Developmental Resources.” Pp. 289–313 in The Economics of Time Use, edited by D.S. Hamermesh and G.A. Pfann. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Teachman, J.D. and P.T. Schollaert. 1989. “Gender of Children and Birth Timing.” Demography 26:411–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Yeung, W.J., J.F. Sandberg, P.E. Davis-Kean, and S.L. Hofferth. 2001. “Children’s Time With Fathers in Intact Families.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 63:136–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

We are grateful to Eirik Evenhouse, the Editors, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments, Meherun Ahmed and Kwok Ping Tsang for excellent research assistance, and NIH/NICHD for research support (R01 HD42785-01).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lundberg, S., McLanahan, S. & Rose, E. Child gender and father involvement in fragile families. Demography 44, 79–92 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2007.0007

Download citation

Keywords

  • Child Gender
  • Father Involvement
  • Married Parent
  • Nancial Support
  • Nonmarital Birth