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The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study: Questions, Design, and a Few Preliminary Results.

Publication Year: 
2000
Personal Author: 
McLanahan, S.
Garfinkel, I.
Unpublished Paper
Page Count: 
45

The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study is designed to collect information about the men who father children outside marriage and the nature of their relationships with their children and their children's mothers. The research will follow a new birth cohort of approximately 4,700 children, including 3,600 children born to unmarried parents representative of nonmarital births in each of 20 cities and in U.S. cities with populations over 200,000. Both mothers and fathers will be followed for at least 4 years, and in-home assessments of children's health and development will be carried out when the children are 4 years old. The survey will address the conditions and capabilities of new unwed parents, especially fathers; the nature of the relationships in fragile families; the factors that push new unwed parents together and pull them apart; and the effects of parental capacities and public policies on the well being of children. The findings are expected to identify which policies are likely to influence parents and lead to positive outcomes for children. Preliminary results from Oakland, California and Austin, Texas indicate that unmarried parents are committed to their children and their children's other parent. More than two-thirds of the parents expect that they will marry their children's other parent and 80 percent of fathers supported mothers during their pregnancy. Most of the mothers would like the father to be involved with their children. However, the majority of unmarried parents in Oakland and Austin do not have the financial resources to support their family. Preliminary findings also reveal that a significant proportion of unmarried women engage in risk behaviors during pregnancy, such as alcohol or drug use, and do not obtain prenatal care during the first trimester. Policymakers are urged to build on existing commitments to encourage paternal involvement in the lives of children and to promote health care during pregnancy. (Author abstract modified) Numerous references, 9 tables. The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study is designed to collect information about the men who father children outside marriage and the nature of their relationships with their children and their children's mothers. The research will follow a new birth cohort of approximately 4,700 children, including 3,600 children born to unmarried parents representative of nonmarital births in each of 20 cities and in U.S. cities with populations over 200,000. Both mothers and fathers will be followed for at least 4 years, and in-home assessments of children's health and development will be carried out when the children are 4 years old. The survey will address the conditions and capabilities of new unwed parents, especially fathers; the nature of the relationships in fragile families; the factors that push new unwed parents together and pull them apart; and the effects of parental capacities and public policies on the well being of children. The findings are expected to identify which policies are likely to influence parents and lead to positive outcomes for children. Preliminary results from Oakland, California and Austin, Texas indicate that unmarried parents are committed to their children and their children's other parent. More than two-thirds of the parents expect that they will marry their children's other parent and 80 percent of fathers supported mothers during their pregnancy. Most of the mothers would like the father to be involved with their children. However, the majority of unmarried parents in Oakland and Austin do not have the financial resources to support their family. Preliminary findings also reveal that a significant proportion of unmarried women engage in risk behaviors during pregnancy, such as alcohol or drug use, and do not obtain prenatal care during the first trimester. Policymakers are urged to build on existing commitments to encourage paternal involvement in the lives of children and to promote health care during pregnancy. (Author abstract modified) Numerous references, 9 tables.

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