‘Like Father, Like Son?’: Family Structure and the Intergenerational Transmission of Fatherhood and Fathering

Robin S. Hognas, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Research has consistently shown that living away from one’s father is associated with a higher risk of adverse outcomes for the next generation (McLanahan and Sandefur 1994; Sigle-Rushton and McLanahan 2004). The link between family structure and fatherhood and fathering behaviors across generations is less well understood. In this paper, we examine how father absence in childhood is linked to sons’ fertility behaviors and to his subsequent fathering behaviors. Preliminary results from the NSFG suggest that, despite some prior research to the contrary, childhood family structure influences fathers’ fertility behaviors and we expect that our findings (using the NSFG and Fragile Families data) will also show that childhood father absence is linked to less father involvement for the next generation. We expect that the intergenerational transmission of father absence and fathering may be an important aspect of the growing inequality by socioeconomic status in the U.S. (McLanahan 2004; McLanahan and Percheski 2008).

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Presented in Session 144: Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Parental Absence or Death