Father Presence

Research literature supports the finding that a loving and nurturing father improves outcomes for children, families and communities. Recent research results show that fathers who live with their children are more likely to have a close, enduring relationship with their children. Other results show that children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors including drug use, truancy, and criminal activity.
 
The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) recognizes that child poverty is among the most pervasive social problems challenging Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other poor households—due to the combination of children born to single mothers, father absence, and high unemployment. The NRFC also recognizes that child poverty can be reduced via supporting and strengthening the role of fathers in needy families via:

  • promoting and sustaining healthy marriages through a variety of activities, including programs to teach couples marriage and relationship skills;
  • equipping men to be responsible fathers through skill-based parenting education;
  • assisting men to achieve financial stability in the form of more consistent and higher earnings, and;
  • supporting incarcerated fathers in the development of healthy marriages and effective fathering skills.

In addition, the NRFC recognizes the importance of father involvement and is guided by the following principles:

  • all fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children.
  • parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household.
  • the roles fathers play in families is diverse and related to cultural and community norms.
  • men should receive the education and support necessary to prepare them for the responsibility of parenthood.
  • government can encourage and promote father involvement through its programs and through its own workforce policies.

On this Page

Who Needs Fathers?

American children are in crisis and families are in need of assistance due to father absence.

  • Research results show that 24 million children (34 percent) live absent their biological father.
  • Other results show that children who live absent their biological fathers are more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.
  • Thus, reducing father absence via supporting and encouraging fathers to become actively involved in their child's life offers significant potential to reduce the adverse effects of father absence and to empower individual lives, foster families, and contribute to community wellbeing.

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Can Fathers Reduce Child Poverty?

The presence of a responsible father significantly reduces child poverty.

  • Research results show that children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor.
  • In 2002, 7.8 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 38.4 of children in female-headed householder families.

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Can Fathers Promote Physical Health and Safety?

The presence of a responsible father promotes physical health and safety among children.

  • Research results show that father presence can foster healthy physical, emotional, social and spiritual development.
  • A growing body of research shows that children are healthier when fathers are involved in the daily care of their children's health and safety.

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Can Fathers Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect?

The presence of a responsible father prevents child abuse and neglect.

  • Research results show that the presence of a father in the home lowers the likelihood that a child will be physically and/or emotionally abused and neglected.
  • Other results show that compared to living with both parents, living in a single parent home doubles the risk that a child will suffer physical, emotional or educational neglect.

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Can Fathers Improve School Performance and Reduce Problem Behaviors?

The presence of a responsible father promotes improves academic performance and reduces disciplinary problems among children.

  • Research results show that children who live with single parents are overrepresented among those lagging in health, social and emotional, and cognitive outcomes.
  • Other results show that students living with both parents are less likely to have behavioral problems in school that result in suspension or expulsion.

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Can Fathers Reduce Behavioral and Emotional Problems?

The presence of a responsible father has a direct effect on behavioral and emotional outcomes for the child.

  • Research results show that the proportion of time spent in a female-headed household decreased the likelihood that a child will engage in pro-social behavior.
  • Other results show that children from single-mother families were more likely to have one or more behavioral or emotional problems.

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Can Fathers Delay the Sexual Debut and Prevent Teen Pregnancy?

The presence of a responsible father plays a key role in delaying sexual debut and reducing teen pregnancy.

  • Recent research shows that boys raised in single-mother homes are at a higher risk of teen pregnancy.
  • Similarly, girls without fathers are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as other adolescents.

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Can Fathers Prevent Crime and Delinquency?

The presence of a responsible father reduces crime and delinquency among youth.

  • Research results show that adolescents who live in single-parent households are significantly more likely to commit status, property, or person delinquency when compared to adolescents living in two-parent households families.
  • Thus, increasing father involvement can reduce crime and delinquency among youth.

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Can Fathers Prevent Substance Absence?

The presence of a responsible father reduces the likelihood that children will suffer substance abuse.

  • Research results show that father closeness serves a protective factor against the use and abuse of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and hard-drugs during adolescence.
  • Thus, reducing father absence reduces the probability that children abuse substances.

Source: The Father Factor: How Father Absence Affects Our Youth. National Fatherhood Initiative.

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Father Absence

Father absence refers to when children grow up without a father in their lives, particularly in their homes. Recent research shows that children who live without their fathers are more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.

While the research can be daunting, there is good news. A loving and nurturing father improves outcomes for children, families and communities. Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors including drug use, truancy, and criminal activity.

If you are a father looking to be more active in your child's life, the following resources are practical tools from the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) online library. More program relevant and technical resources are available below.

Information Resources from the Online Library on: Non-Custodial Parenting

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NRFC Resources

Spotlight on Dads – These short pieces are written for dads on different parenting topics to help them be the best fathers they can be, no matter what their circumstances.

  • Get Creative, Stay Connected (2009) – This Spotlight on Dads focuses on staying connected while incarcerated.
  • Back in Touch (2009) – Get guidance on reconnecting with your kids when living apart, before or after separation.
  • Steps in The Right Direction (2009) – The introduction of a step-parent into a child's life can be difficult for the children and parents. This Spotlight helps you take steps toward positive co-parenting and relationship building.
  • Deployed Dads: Preparing Children for Separation (2009) – Absence because of military deployment can be difficult for children and parents. This Spotlight helps with preparing the family for that absence.

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Research Resources

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Other Resources

U.S. Surgeon General's Tips To Fathers (link no longer active)
Sponsor: U.S. Surgeon General
From babyhood into the college years, kids look to dads for love and guidance. U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., offers dads advice to make their jobs more successful - a dozen tips for keeping children healthy and safe.

The Responsibilities of Non-Custodial Dads
Sponsor: Family Education
The non-custodial parent, often the dad, must make a special effort to maintain a close and loving relationship with the children. Jack Feuer, a journalist, a divorced and dedicated father, and the author of several books for divorced dads, has some winning strategies for forging bonds when a parent is not in daily contact with the kids.

Making Visitation Work
Sponsor: Fathers.com
Offers a few suggestions that may help smooth out a tough situation, borrowing from Kenneth Parker and Van Jones in their book, Every Other Weekend.

What Fathers Contribute to Child Development (PDF - 35 KB)
Sponsor: The Texas A & M System. Texas Cooperative Extension
Fathers who are active in their child's life will have a tremendous effect on their child's development ? both cognitively and socially. Having the experience of two involved parents adds variety and dimension to the child's experience of the world.

Family Fun and Entertainment Ideas for Kids
Sponsor: Family Education
Family Entertainment Center, includes games, arts and crafts projects and after-school activities, and explore ideas, decorations, and homemade gifts for the holidays. Also features game and toy recommendations, and a movie database.

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Resources from Online Library

Father Absence and Youth Incarceration: Center for Research on Child Wellbeing
Source: California University, San Francisco.
This study measures the likelihood of incarceration among contemporary male youths from father-absent households, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

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Other Relevant Resources

Children's Bureau Express
Children's Bureau Express is designed for professionals concerned with child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption. Children's Bureau Express is supported by the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and published by Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Study of Fathers' Involvement in Permanency Planning and Child Welfare Casework (link no longer active)
This review summarizes existing literature and knowledge about non-custodial fathers and their relations with children involved in the child welfare system.

Welfare Peer Technical Assistance
The Welfare Peer Technical Assistance Network provides peer-to-peer technical assistance to public agencies and private organizations operating the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. This page provides resources on the role of family formation and stabilization in moving families from welfare to self-sufficiency.

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