More than 40% of children in the US are now born outside of marriage. While their unmarried parents may have high expectations for the future, they are particularly vulnerable to financial and relationship instability. CFRP's Cynthia Osborne and Nora Ankrum explore this issue in newly published paper, "Understanding Today's Changing Families," Family Court Review.
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When their children are born, most unmarried parents have high expectations for the future, but they are particularly vulnerable to financial and relationship instability. Their children are disproportionately likely to experience negative health and wellbeing outcomes, in part because of low father involvement. We provide an overview of the findings in this area, drawing primarily from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and two studies conducted by the Child and Family Research Partnership at The University of Texas at Austin. We conclude that father involvement is largely a function of parental relationship quality, and that interventions designed to improve child outcomes should focus on enhancement of co-parenting skills.
Key Points for the Family Court Community
- Relative to their married peers, unmarried parents face distinct barriers to financial and relationship stability.
- Children of unmarried parents are more likely to experience negative outcomes for health and wellbeing, in part because of low father involvement.
- One of the most consistent predictors of father involvement is the quality of the father's relationship with the mother.
- Interventions that teach co-parenting skills may enhance relationship quality and increase positive father involvement.