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Fathers - History And Background Of Father Involvement, Father Involvement: What Is It And How Is It Measured?

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In the 1990s, researchers and social commentators began to document recent social and cultural shifts in how men see themselves in their role as fathers and how families, policies, and others conceptualize them in these roles. For example, increased women's labor force participation has reconfigured child-care environments for children, giving fathers the opportunity to play a more active role in the care of their children. In cases in which the mother and father of a child do not reside in the same household, men's groups have argued that while men accept their responsibilities for the economic and psychological well-being of their children, they also demand legal rights and access to their children. Moreover, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the number of single fathers living with their children increased by 25 percent during the late 1990s, reflecting an increased acceptance by courts and society of paternal custody, an increased tendency on the part of men to seek custody, and a greater willingness on the part of mothers and judges to agree to paternal custody.

These social shifts parallel changes in the cultural ideals of good fathering and have important implications for child well-being. In general, children who grow up with involved, caring, and nurturing fathers tend to experience academic success and good peer relationships, and take less risky behaviors. In contrast, father absence is consistently associated with poor school achievement, early childbearing, and high risk-taking behavior. Although the mechanism by which positive father involvement affects children's outcomes is unclear, there is enough evidence to assert that fathers matter to the social, economic, and psychological development of their children, themselves, and their families.

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