Reciprocal Longitudinal Relations Between Nonresident Father Involvement and Adolescent Delinquency


  • This research was funded through a grant to the first author from the W. T. Grant Foundation (2538) and through funding for the Three City Study from: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (RO1 HD36093), Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation, Administration on Developmental Disabilities, Administration for Children and Families, Social Security Administration, and National Institute of Mental Health, The Boston Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, The W. K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Searle Fund for Policy Research, and The Woods Fund of Chicago. A special thanks is also due to the families who participated in the Three-City Study. This paper was presented at the 2006 meetings of the Society for Research on Adolescence in San Francisco, CA, and the Population Association of America in Los Angeles, CA.

concerning this article should be addressed to Rebekah Levine Coley, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Electronic mail may be sent to


Using a representative sample of low-income, primarily minority adolescents (N=647, aged 10–14 years at Wave 1), this study examined bidirectional longitudinal relations between nonresident father involvement, defined as contact and responsibility for children's care and behavior, and adolescent engagement in delinquent activities. Autoregressive and fixed effects models found that higher nonresident father involvement predicted subsequent decreases in adolescent delinquency, particularly for youth with initial engagement in delinquent activities. Adolescent delinquency did not predict subsequent changes in father involvement. However, the two factors covaried: As adolescent delinquency increased, so too did father involvement, suggesting that nonresident fathers may increase their involvement in the face of adolescent problem behavior, with this pattern driven primarily by African American families.