June 18, 2011

Family & Children; Oil & Water

In a related story to the last post on the Death of Family in America which found that 40% of children are raised in a single parent household, this research report here also shows the changing role of families in raising children as 50% of dad's under 45 now have at least 1 child outside of marriage.

From the Pew Research Poll:

WASHINGTON -- Nearly half of American dads younger than 45 this Father's Day say they have at least one child who was born out of wedlock. And the share of fathers living apart from children is more than double what it was not so long ago.

In encouraging news, though, among married fathers, children are said to be getting more attention from both parents at home than ever before.

A Pew Research Center report highlights the changing roles of parents as U.S. marriage rates and traditional family households fall to historic lows.

For example, college-educated men who tend to marry and get better jobs are more involved with their children than lesser-skilled men struggling to get by.

"When a father can't provide monetarily for his offspring, he often becomes estranged," said Beth Latshaw, an assistant sociology professor at Appalachian State University, who researches changing paternal roles. She pointed to an economic advantage for college graduates hired at companies with better benefits and family-friendly policies, contrasted with the situation for the larger ranks of low-wage workers.

"As a result, many women now raise children outside of marriage or without a father figure," Latshaw said.

Pew's survey and analysis of government data, released Wednesday, found that about 46 percent of fathers ages 15 to 44 say they had at least one of their children born outside of marriage.

And more than one in four fathers -- or 27 percent -- with kids 18 or younger live away from at least one of their children. That number is more than double the share of fathers who lived apart from their kids in 1960.

In Indiana, mother-only households accounted for 24 percent of all households in 2009, according to the Indiana Youth Institute.

On the other hand, married fathers who live with their children are devoting more time to helping their wives with caregiving. Such fathers on average now spend about 6.5 hours a week on child care, which include playing or taking them to activities. That's up from 2.6 hours in the 1960s. The 6.5 hours is still just half the amount of time mothers spend per week.

"Father's Day reminds us parents that we have no more solemn obligation than to care for our children. But far too many young people in America grow up without their dads, and our families and communities are challenged as a result," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in calling for fathers to be more involved. Sunday is Father's Day.

Obama has often reminded Americans how his father left his family when the future president was a small child, describing a "hole in a child's life that no government can fill." The Health and Human Services Department is running public service advertisements this week urging fathers to "Take Time to Be a Dad Today," and the administration next week is expected to announce new support for local fatherhood programs.

The Pew study, "A Tale of Two Fathers," found sharp differences based on race and education. Black and Hispanic fathers were much more likely to have children out of wedlock, at 72 percent and 59 percent, respectively, compared with 37 percent for white men. Among fathers with at least a bachelor's degree, only 13 percent had children outside marriage, compared with 51 percent of those with high school diplomas and 65 percent of those who didn't finish high school.

The findings come as the latest census data show that the share of U.S. households with married couples is below 50 percent for the first time.

Gretchen Livingston, a senior Pew researcher who co-authored the report, noted that fathers who live away from their children are not always absent. More than 20 percent of such dads said they saw their children several times a week. Still, 27 percent of fathers who live away from their children reported that they didn't see them at all in the past year.

Pew based its findings on Census Bureau figures as well as National Center for Health Statistics survey data from 2006-08, the latest available. On behalf of Pew, Princeton Survey Research Associates International also interviewed 2,006 people 18 and older by cellphone or landline May 26-29 and June 2-5. The Pew survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

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