Pre-Separation family relationships and post-separation involvement among nonresident fathers in the United States

Raymond E. Petren, Anthony J. Ferraro, Emily Pinto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transition to separation is an important time for the re-configuration of family relationships and maintaining father involvement. Pre-separation family relationships may affect father involvement over this transition. This study examines associations among family relationship attributes prior to separation (father engagement, coparenting support, mothers’ perceptions of paternal competence, marital status) and post-separation father involvement (contact, in-kind support, shared responsibility). Data were from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a large national survey with an oversampling of nonmarital births (Reichman et al., 2001). Included were mothers who lived with the father all or most of the time around a focal child’s third birthday (Y3) and were separated from the father around the child’s fifth birthday (Y5) (N = 371). Structural equation modeling results showed that family relationship attributes at Y3 were associated with post-separation father involvement at Y5. Mothers’ perceptions of paternal competence were positively associated with contact. Coparenting support and unmarried parent status were associated with greater father responsibility, and father engagement was positively associated with in-kind support provision. Results held, even when controlling for structural factors concurrent with post-separation father involvement. Results suggest that different aspects of pre-separation relationships may differentially affect domains of father involvement after separation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-551
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this