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Fatherhood

Divorced And Single Fathers

Fathering occurs not only in nuclear family contexts but when single custodial fathers serve as primary caregivers for their children following divorce or widowhood. Research on this family form indicates that these men and their families function fairly well. Adaptation to the role of primary parent is initially difficult, but once fathers develop routines and children adjust to their fathers being the sole parent, family life usually proceeds smoothly. Initially after divorce or death, children—especially boys—experience adjustment difficulties, such as diminished school performance or behavior problems.

Quality of involvement is critical and not all paternal involvement is good. Some research indicates that involvement with a noncustodial father is associated with positive outcomes for children, whereas other research indicates that there is no association with child outcomes. The parents' relationship is a critical mediating factor. If the parental relationship is conflict-ridden, frequent visitation will be problematic. Many fathers reduce the amount of visitation in order to reduce the amount of conflict with the former spouse. In fact, relationship with the former spouse is the most significant factor in visitation. If the court proceedings are stressful and the relationship with the former spouse is conflictual, then fathers are less likely to remain involved or to provide child support. Moreover, maternal anger or conflict may cause the mother to restrict the amount and type of involvement by fathers as well. There is consistent evidence of maternal gatekeeping in divorced families. However, long-term effects of maternal gatekeeping on children's adjustment are not well understood.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodFatherhood - Historical Perspectives, Fathers Across The Life Span, Determinants Of Father-involvement, Divorced And Single Fathers