Union stability among mothers and stepfathers: Contributions of stepfathers and biological fathers

Raymond E. Petren, Chelsea L. Garneau-Rosner, Elif D. Yildirim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A substantial proportion of unmarried mothers with young children live with new partners (stepfathers), and the stability of these unions is important to outcomes for mothers and children. This study examined effects of both step- and biological fathers' co-parenting, parenting, and financial contributions on union stability among mothers and stepfathers. Data were from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 370), and the sample included mothers with 3-year-old children who were mostly unmarried and low-income. Results from discrete-time event history analysis indicated that mothers' residential unions with stepfathers were more stable when stepfathers were working and less stable when biological fathers paid formal child support. Results from interactions in the model showed that differences in the likelihood of dissolution between working and nonworking stepfathers were greater when stepfathers had more supportive co-parenting relationships with mothers and when stepfathers engaged in activities with the child more often. Findings suggest that economic contributions of both biological and stepfathers affect the stability of mother-stepfather residential unions, and stepfathers' co-parenting and parenting contributions may provide additional protection against union dissolution, particularly when stepfathers are working. Prevention and intervention programs could benefit these fragile families by attending to economic contributions of both fathers and stepfathers and helping stepfathers develop roles as coparents and parents in this context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1151
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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