Paternal Multiple Partner Fertility, Coparenting, and Father Involvement: The Role of Family Chaos
Petren, Raymond E. (author)
Pasley, Kay (professor directing dissertation)
Cui, Ming, 1971- (committee member)
Gonzales-Backen, Melinda A. (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Human Sciences (degree granting college)
Department of Family and Child Sciences (degree granting department)
Recent demographic trends show that multiple partner fertility (MPF; having children by more than one partner) is prevalent in American family life, particularly among unmarried men and women. MPF challenges family relationships and leads to poor economic and socio-emotional outcomes for parents and children, and paternal MPF is particularly problematic as it often results in fathers parenting multiple groups of children across households. Whereas some research shows that paternal MPF is associated with less supportive coparenting relationships among non-resident fathers and mothers and less father involvement, little is known about the mechanisms linking MPF with coparenting support and father involvement. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and the family chaos perspective as a guide, the current project included three studies addressing the role of family chaos in the lives of unmarried non-resident fathers and their relationships with mothers and children. In Study 1, I examined the association between paternal MPF and family chaos, indicated by partnership instability, residential instability, work stability, number of different work shifts, work flexibility, material hardship, and perceived social support. In Study 2, I tested a mediation model hypothesizing that paternal MPF is associated with higher levels of family chaos, and family chaos, in turn, is associated with less coparenting support as perceived by both non-resident fathers and mothers of a focal child. Building on Study 2, Study 3 tested a mediation model hypothesizing that both family chaos and coparenting support mediate the association between MPF and father involvement with the focal child. As the timing of MPF may also matter, the effects of both early MPF (fathering a child by another partner before the focal child's first birthday) and later MPF (fathering another child between the focal child's first and third birthdays) on family chaos, coparenting support, and father involvement were examined with no MPF fathers as the comparison group. Overall, findings from Study 1 were that paternal MPF was associated with some indicators of family chaos (greater partnership instability, residential instability, material hardship, less work stability), but not others (work hours, number of work shifts, work flexibility, social support). Early MPF and later MPF were similarly related with work stability and material hardship, although later MPF was more strongly associated with partnership instability than was early MPF. Associations between MPF and family chaos were generally small. Results from Study 2 showed that most indicators of family chaos did not mediate associations among paternal MPF and coparenting support two years later. One exception was that both early and later MPF were associated with partnership instability which, in turn, was negatively, though only marginally, associated with fathers' perceptions of coparenting support. Results from Study 3 were similar to those of Study 2 and showed that most indicators of family chaos did not mediate the associations among paternal MPF, coparenting support, and father involvement two years later. Early MPF was negatively, though marginally, associated with social support which, in turn, was positively associated with concurrent reports of mothers' coparenting support, and mothers' perceptions of coparenting support were associated with father involvement two years later. Later MPF was directly associated with father involvement two years later, but this association was not mediated by family chaos or either parents' perceptions of coparenting support. Overall, findings suggest that family chaos may be a factor in the lives of fathers who experience MPF; however, further research is needed understand these associations.
coparenting, family chaos, fathers, fragile families, multiple partner fertility
July 31, 2014.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Family and Child Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Kay Pasley, Professor Directing Dissertation; Ming Cui, Committee Member; Melinda Gonzales-Backen, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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