Longitudinal Associations Between Mothers’ Perceptions of Nonresidential Fathers’ Investment of Resources and Influence in Decision-Making

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Abstract

Nonresidential fathers are challenged to remain involved with their children across time in both direct and indirect ways, including influencing decision-making around important issues such as school attendance and medical care. An analytic sample of 1,350 families with residential mothers and nonresidential fathers was selected from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) to examine the longitudinal relationships between mothers’ reports of nonresidential fathers’ influence in decision-making and their provision of resources to their children. Findings indicate that fathers’ voluntary contribution of tangible resources (informal child support, caregiving time) when children are 2 years old positively predict fathers’ influence in decision-making regarding the care of their 4-year-old children. Fathers’ early formal child support is not related to later decision-making. Fathers’ communication with mother about the child at 24 months is related to later decision-making among daughters but not sons. Fathers’ early decision-making is longitudinally related to later informal child support, caregiving time, and coparenting communication. The findings support the utility of a resource theory of fathering for understanding and predicting observed patterns of father involvement.

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