Objective. We examine the relation between low-income fathers' presence in their children's lives and their children's early developmental outcomes using data from Early Head Start. Design. We grouped 1,930 children into 5 "classes" using maternal reports of fathers' presence and connectedness with the child. We developed the 5 mutually exclusive classes based on biological relatedness, residence in the home or frequency of contact, and stability of the relationship over time. We regressed 6 child outcomes on these classes of father connectedness (controlling for covariates). We also examined differences by race and ethnicity and ran the same regression models within the 3 major racial and ethnic groups. Results. Children with resident or involved nonresident biological fathers showed higher levels of self-regulation and lower levels of aggression than children with unstable father connections. Relations seemed most straightforward for European Americans and somewhat for Latin Americans, among whom a consistent biological father presence was associated with positive child developmental outcomes. Children with involved nonresident biological fathers were better off than children who had transient relationships with their fathers. These relations did not hold as consistently for African Americans. Conclusions. On average, frequent contact with a biological father is beneficial to children's development; however, relations appear to differ by race and ethnicity. Models that are valid and predictive for families from all racial and ethnic groups are needed, and programs developed that address individual needs and enhance development of all children.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology