Life With (or Without) Father: The Benefits of Living With Two Biological Parents Depend on the Father's Antisocial Behavior

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Abstract

The salutary effects of being raised by two married, biological parents depend on the quality of care parents can provide. Using data from an epidemiological sample of 1,116 5–year–old twin pairs and their parents, this study found that the less time fathers lived with their children, the more conduct problems their children had, but only if the fathers engaged in low levels of antisocial behavior. In contrast, when fathers engaged in high levels of antisocial behavior, the more time they lived with their children, the more conduct problems their children had. Behavioral genetic analyses showed that children who resided with antisocial fathers received a “double whammy” of genetic and environmental risk for conduct problems. Marriage may not be the answer to the problems faced by some children living in single–parent families unless their fathers can become reliable sources of emotional and economic support.

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