Sociological Perspectives on Fatherhood: What Do We Know About Fathers From Social Surveys.

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Eggebeen, D. J.
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The National Survey of Children (NSC), the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), and the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) represent the importance of the sociological perspective in explaining the role of father involvement. These studies have been used repeatedly in analyses about fatherhood because they utilized large nationally representative samples and addressed a wide variety of topics about children and families. The National Survey of Children included 2,301 children age 7 to 11 interviewed in 1976, 1981, and 1987. The study focused on the social, physical and psychological well-being of children; the effects of marital conflict and divorce; and social, psychological, and economic status in young adulthood. The National Survey of Families and Households requested information about the past and current living arrangements and family relationships. More than 13,000 respondents participated in the first wave in 1987/1988 and 10,007 were surveyed again 5 years later. The National Longitudinal Survey had an original sample of 12,680 men and women age 14 to 22. Participants have been interviewed annually since 1979. The findings from all three studies have been used to support hypotheses about the impact of parenting behavior, employment, and time on child well-being. In addition, the data has revealed trends in living arrangements, the different types of contact between nonresident fathers and their children, and the relationship between child support and involvement in the life of the child. Limitations include the underreporting of fathers in the sample groups, the lack of diversity, and weaknesses in the measures used. Future research should explore the racial, ethnic, and class differences in the effects of divorce on children and the application of qualitative methods in the design of research about fathers. 65 references.

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