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Changes in Nonresident Father-Child Contact From 1976 to 2002


Department of Sociology at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 (


To study changes in nonresident father contact since the 1970s, we pooled data from 4 national surveys: the National Survey of Children (1976), the National Survey of Families and Households (1987 – 1988), the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1996), and the National Survey of America’s Families (2002). On the basis of mothers’ reports, levels of contact rose significantly across surveys. Paying child support and having a nonmarital birth were strongly related to contact frequency. The increase in contact may be beneficial in general but problematic if it occurs within the context of hostile interparental relationships. Because nonresident fathers are having more contact with their children now than in the past, an increasing need exists for practitioners to help parents find ways to separate their former romantic roles from their ongoing parental roles and to develop at least minimally cooperative coparental relationships.

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