Together but Not “Together”: Trajectories of Relationship Suspension for Low-Income Unmarried Parents*

Authors


  • *

    This study was conducted with support from the W.T. Grant Foundation, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development under Project No. 5 R03 HD 42074-2, and the Purdue Research Foundation at Purdue University. The authors would like to thank Janey Cunningham for assistance in data analyses.

**Kevin Roy is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Studies at the University of Maryland, 1204 Marie Mount Hall, College Park, MD 20742 (kroy@umd.edu).

Nicolle Buckmiller is a doctoral student in the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland, 1204 Marie Mount Hall, College Park, MD 20742 (nicolle.buckmiller@gmail.com).

April McDowell is a doctoral student in the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland, 1204 Marie Mount Hall, College Park, MD 20742 (april.mcdowell@gmail.com).

Abstract

Abstract: We identified and examined relationship trajectories among low-income parents, with particular attention to fathers and mothers who never marry but maintain potential for greater commitment. Through analyses of life history interviews with a diverse sample of 71 fathers in the Midwest, we used a life course framework to examine the process of relationship suspension. Findings indicated that partner support was critical in overcoming environmental and family barriers to long-term relationships. By delinking partnering from parenting, unmarried mothers and fathers found a basis for prolonged interaction, apart from intimacy. Relationships persisted because of daily investments during many years of waiting to formalize relationships. Implications for research on relationship trajectories among low-income families and for policy and programs are discussed.

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