Early Childhood Paternal Absence and Later Childhood Behavior Problems: Evidence from the 1979 NLSY Mother and Child Data

Jamie L. Lynch, Ohio State University
Frank Mott, Ohio State University

Using data from the Mother and Child cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey, this research examines the role of father absence on behavioral outcomes in late childhood. Results indicate that family disruption has a large negative effect on the emotional, but not cognitive, quality of the home environment. Important to child well-being on its own, the emotional quality of the home links father absence with an increase in externalizing and internalizing behavior problems for children at age ten. Uncontrolled estimates show a linearly increasing relationship between behavior problems and duration of father absence; however, this relationship is mediated by the emotional and cognitive home environment. Children in disrupted homes are found to maintain, and in some instances increase, high levels of behavior problems with the addition of a new father figure. Girls, but not boys, exhibit less behavior problems when a father is continuously present throughout childhood.

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Presented in Poster Session 5