The goal of the proposed research is to examine differences in well-being, in terms of academic achievement, mental health, and substance use, for adult offspring growing up with nonresident versus resident fathers and to examine whether nonresident father involvement mitigates these potential differences. We address the following research questions: Question 1A: Do differences in well-being between offspring that grew up with a nonresident father versus offspring that grew up with a resident father continue into adulthood? Question 1B: Do the differences between growing up with a nonresident father versus a resident father vary based on the length of time spent without a resident father? Question 2: Among nonresident father families, what are the direct and indirect pathways through which father involvement in adolescence and young adulthood is associated with increased well-being during adulthood? Question 3: What dimensions of nonresident father involvement have the strongest positive associations with adult offspring well-being, and do certain types of involvement matter more for certain dimensions of wellbeing? Question 4: Do the pathways between nonresident father involvement and offspring well-being during adulthood differ for sons versus daughters? The proposed project will use data from Waves I,III and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and will extend research by examining differences in adult well-being between offspring with resident biological fathers, offspring who never lived with their biological fathers, and offspring with nonresident fathers absent from the household for varying lengths of time. The proposed study will also examine the consequences of nonresident father involvement for adult offspring well-being. The project will use a structural equation modeling framework in Mplus in order to control for complex sampling design, efficiently account for missing data, incorporate latent constructs of key predictors and outcomes, and analyze cross-group differences. The proposed project contributes to prior research by (1) examining differences in adult offspring well-being between resident father families and diverse types of nonresident father families;(2) examining the unique contribution of multiple dimensions of nonresident father involvement over-time;and (3) examining whether problem behaviors observed during adolescence persist into adulthood, and whether nonresident father involvement serves as a protective factor for these outcomes at later ages.
Understanding the long-term implications of childhood family structure and nonresident father involvement for adult offspring's development and well-being is important given high rates of divorce and increasing rates of nonmarital childbearing in the United States, which result in large numbers of children growing up apart from their biological fathers. Clarifying the role of nonresident fathers in shaping offspring's well-being during adulthood will help inform current efforts aimed at increasing and improving nonresident father involvement, and will help programs develop interventions that will have long-lasting benefits for children.