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Father involvement, child health and maternal health behavior



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Father involvement child health and maternal health behavior Julien Teitler School of Social Work Columbia University July 2000 An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the Urban Seminar on Children s Health and Safety April 23 24 1999 at Harvard University This research was supported in part by the Lowenstein Foundation the National Institute of Health HD08221 and the Office of Population Research 5P30HD AG32030 I am grateful to Patricia Fondrie Irv Garfinkel I Fen Lin Sara McLanahan and Nancy Reichman for their valuable suggestions Introduction Until recently academic and public interest in the contributions of fathers to their children was limited to their role as breadwinners Fathers were primarily portrayed as providers of financial support and the departure of fathers from the family unit by separation or divorce was seen as detrimental primarily because of the resulting financial loss to the women and children of those unions Only in the past 10 years has public and academic interest begun to look at fathers as potentially important in other ways The new focus on fathers and fatherhood has developed among academics and social policy advocates Among the former the focus on fathers has been enlarged to take into account father involvement or contact with children and to some extent the quality of relationships between fathers and children The theory behind this more inclusive movement is that in addition to bringing in economic resources fathers may provide parenting and community resources Lamb 1997 Single parents may not be able to provide the child with as much time and attention as can two parents The additional time provided by two parent families could be allocated a number of different ways and some of these e g time spent reading can promote positive child development Increased time may also lead to increased supervision and to more consistent enforcement of rules Social advocates see the father as a moral guardian and argue that the loss of



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