Non-resident Fathers and Child well- being

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Does a father who lives outside of the country, a non-resident, contribute to the well-being of his child? Are issues like money support, closeness and sense of an authority person still important to the well- being of the child despite the distance? A Meta-analysis (a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies) was conducted to extract information from 63 studies to find a reliable answer[1]
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Contents

The Survey

Amato found 32 studies of divorce, which reported about the contact with non-custodial fathers and their children’s well-being. Out of these studies:

Those results did not show a clear correlation, thus contrasting elaborations continued. For example, Seltzer noted that "large national surveys consistently show an absence of association between non-resident fathers' visits and children's well-being"[3]. In contrast to the finding about the emotional well-being, the results on the economic support of the father show a clear positive effect; it increases the children’s standard of living, improves their health prospects and educational attainment. Often researchers count on the frequency of interaction as an important determinant of the father-child relationship. However this is not enough; some non-resident fathers may visit their children frequently to check how their “support” is spent, but their ties of affection and influence can be weak[4]. Thus, measures were found to capture feelings of affection, tension, exchanges of assistance, feelings of obligation, and value consensus. Support, such as responsiveness, encouragement and assistance, as well as control that is reflected in monitoring and discipline are found to be crucial for the well-being. Studies by Young, Miller and Norton[5] found that intrinsic support is far more important than extrinsic support by the fathers. Intrinsic support is expressed through trust, encouragement and solving problems of the kids, whereas extrinsic means the buying of presents or taking the kids out to the cinema for example. Thus, a non- resident father, who is not physically able to engage in extrinsic support, but is always available for intrinsic support can have a great importance to the child despite the distance.

Results

Results from the Meta-analysis show that the majority support the hypothesis of a link between the fathers’ payment and children’s well- being, so it is tempting to conclude that non- resident fathers are important for money support but not more, since supporting evidence is lacking for the latter. Alternatively, the association between the fathers’ behaviour and children’s well-being may be caused by a lurking, a third variable. However, studies that control a range of background factors continue to show significant associations[6].

Researchers also found out that the results about non-resident fathers do not vary much depending on the child age, race, reason for fathers’ absence, and mothers’ marital status. However, consistent support was found for the hypothesis that associations between parental contact and children’s well-being have become stronger over time, maybe because fathers gain more skill and start to feel more committed, or it becomes easier to establish a common understanding with older children. One could suggest that the results also depend on the decade that is studied, since parent-child relationships are very influenced by the environment[7].

Thus, the conclusion is that the frequency of visits is not the most important aspect. It is suggested to be valid that non-resident fathers, apart from their money support, usually have little effect on the well-being of their children. One of the reasons for this is that many fathers think that their child should enjoy their common time through entertainment, thus engaging in extrinsic relations becomes of greater importance for them. Thus ignoring the crucial role in authoritative parenting such as setting rules, helping with homework, or sharing problems usually leads to very superficial relationships[8]. Not all non-resident fathers fail to have a decent relationship with their child; the result depends on the motivation of the father to show a strong commitment, despite the visiting arrangements. Here, new policies will be very effective; the U.S. Commission on Child and Family Welfare recommended abandoning the concepts of custody and visitation. Thus, the fact that one parent “wins”, but the other “looses” the child will diminish in importance-parenting decisions should be developed jointly, which is usually not unproblematic.

Summary

See also

References

  1. Paul R. Amato and Joan G. Gilbreth. “Nonresident Fathers and Children's Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis” Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Aug., 1999) http://www.jstor.org/stable/353560 .
  2. Amato, P.R.(1993).“Children's adjustment to divorce: Theories, hypotheses, and empirical support”. p.55 Journal of Marriage and the Family.
  3. Seltzer, J. A. (1998). “Father by law: Effects of joint legal custody on nonresident fathers' involvement with children.” Demography, 35, 135-146
  4. Paul R. Amato and Joan G. Gilbreth. “Nonresident Fathers and Children's Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis” Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Aug., 1999), pp. 557-573 http://www.jstor.org/stable/353560 .
  5. Young, M. H., Miller, B. C., Norton, M. C., & Hill, E. J.(1995). “The effect of parental supportive behaviors on Journal of Marriage and the Family, life satisfaction of adolescent offspring.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 813-822.
  6. Seltzer, J. A. (1998). “Father by law: Effects of joint legal custody on nonresident fathers' involvement with children.” Demography, 35, 135-146
  7. Paul R. Amato and Joan G. Gilbreth. “Nonresident Fathers and Children's Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis” Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Aug., 1999), pp. 557-573 http://www.jstor.org/stable/353560
  8. Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., & Harris, K. M.(1993). “When and why fathers matter: Impacts of father involvement on the children of adolescent mothers”. p. 117-138 Philadelphia: Temple University Press

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