Mothers Hesitant about Father Involvement at Greater Risk of Family Violence


Most unmarried mothers want the father of their child to be an involved and active parent. In fact, when asked several months after giving birth, more than 8 in 10 unmarried mothers say that they want the father “completely involved” when it comes to raising the child in the coming years. This unequivocal answer, it turns out, says a lot about the parents’ relationship and future prospects.

A mother who answers “not involved at all” also sends a clear message about her relationship with the father and where events are headed. Somewhat less obvious, however, is what to make of the 14 percent of mothers who put the ideal level of father involvement at “greatly”, “somewhat” or “slightly” involved. These hazy objectives, it seems, also say something critical about the parents’ relationship—especially when it comes to family violence.

Though overall 2 in 10 unmarried mothers report violence from the father of their child, the rate of abuse is more than twice as high among mothers who hesitate to sanction full father involvement. Policymakers, practitioners, and advocates working with mothers should pay greater attention to even minor signs of reluctance when it comes to endorsing fathers’ participation. Equivocation, it turns out, may be a form of protection.

-- by Daniel Dillon, Senior Research Associate

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