According to the U.S. Census, the face of the nation is changing rapidly in ways not conducive to fathersâ€™ involvement in their childrenâ€™s lives. In fact, an increasing number of children are living with unmarried parents or in single-parent households. From 1950 to 2007, the percentage of households with children under 18 living in an intact family decreased from 93% to 71%. During this time, the percentage of households with children maintained by a single mother increased from 6 to 23%, while the percentage of households with children maintained by a single father increased from 1 to 5%. This sizeable increase in households headed by single fathers requires us to understand, delineate and disseminate critical information about the specific role of fathers in child development. In 2010, the percentage of children under 18 living with two married parents was as low as 66%, which means that over 30% of children grow up in single-parent or non-traditional families.
Furthermore, in 2009, among the 30.2 million fathers living with children younger than 18, as many as 15% lived in mixed family arrangements known to pose a challenge to the adults and children involved (11% with stepchildren, 4% with adopted children, and 1% with foster children). According to the Census, children are spending much more time with their mothers than with their fathers.
Census figures furthermore show that minority children are clearly at a disadvantage as well. In fact, in 2009, the percentage of children living with two parents was as high as 85% for Asian children and 78% for Caucasian children and as low as 69% for Hispanic children and 38% for African-American children.
The American family is changing such that fathers and children are less accessible to each other and thus less involved with each other. As we know, father absence is associated with negative outcomes for children, including higher rates of crime, mental health problems, substance use, and teen pregnancy, while father engagement predicts the development of strong, adaptive psychological and social capacities, academic success and cognitive development.