The role of fathers in the American family is changing. Fathers who live with their children are spending more time with them and taking part in a wider range of activities, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis.
Almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework, and playing. At the same time, Census data reflect that more fathers are single parents—in fact, 18 percent of custodial parents are fathers.
While most fathers live with their children, over one-quarter of fathers live apart. Fathers’ living arrangements are strongly correlated with race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Black fathers are more than twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from at least one of their children, while Hispanic fathers fall in the middle.
The Pew study found that among fathers who never completed high school, 40 percent live apart from their children. This compares with only 7 percent of those fathers who graduated from college.
Many nonresident fathers are highly involved with their children, even though they do not live together. Others have little or no contact with their children. According to the Pew study, roughly 1 in 5 fathers who live apart from their children say they visit with them more than once a week, while 1 in 4 fathers do not see their children at all.
Involved fathers can help encourage a child’s healthy physical, emotional, and social development. Research finds that positive father involvement promotes children’s early language and cognitive development. Involved fathers also improve their children’s academic performance. Fathers also are actively involved in their children’s health care.
Here’s another bit of good news on the occasion of Father’s Day: A recent blog refers to a 2010 report by the Future of Children, which highlights that “a high proportion of all unmarried fathers say that they want to be involved in raising their child, and the mothers say they want the father’s involvement.”