The number of children born in the U.S. to nonmarried parents is increasing, and these children are at risk of deleterious outcomes. However, little is known about relationships between unmarried fathers and mothers. Based on a review of extant empirical research and on a multilevel social systems theoretical framework, a practice model is proposed that identifies 12 key factors for further knowledge-development: child well-being, mother's well-being, father's well-being, mother - child relationship, father -child relationship, mother-father relationship, maternal extended family relationships, paternal extended family relationships, neighborhood characteristics, mother's family background, father's family background, and public services and institutional structures. Implications for multilevel approaches to social work practice include needed interventions at both macro and micro levels that address poverty, housing and neighborhood stabilization, employment, child care, human capital development, health and mental health services, family and individual counseling, and parenting skills. Further research must focus on this specific population of "fragile families," including development and evaluation of effective policies, programs, and services. (Author abstract)
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