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A Tale of Two Fathers: The Importance Of Parenting Time With Dad

By Matt Allen
Editor, DadsDivorce.com

A recent study once again proved that kids need more parenting time with their divorced dads.

Yet an increasing amount of children live apart from their fathers despite a strong majority of the public believing children need a father in the home.

Simply, the answer to the question posed by the study "What is life like for fathers who live apart from their children?” is not good.

Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at the Pew Hispanic Center and co-author of the study "A Tale of Two Fathers," answered several questions for DadsDivorce.com about her research, the importance of children having involved fathers, and trends in the number of fathers living with children.


Dads Divorce: According to your research, 27% of children do not live with their dad compared to only 11% of children 50 years ago. What are the primary causes of this increase?

Gretchen Livingston: We did not explicitly examine the reasons for the rise in the share of children living apart from their fathers, however it seems reasonable to assume that the decline in marriage has played a role.  

For instance, in 1960, about 72% of adults were married; while in 2008 that number was 52%. This decline in marriage is driven in part by the increase in divorce; while in 1960, about 5% of adults were divorced (and not remarried), in 2008, that number was up to 14%.

The decline in marriage is also driven by the increasing share of adults who are not marrying at all; in 1960, 15% fell into this category, while in 2008, more than one-fourth (27%) did.



Dads Divorce: How do fathers who live apart from the children think of themselves as parents compared to those dads who live with their children?

Gretchen Livingston: Fathers who live apart from their kids were much less likely to rate themselves as doing a 'very good' or 'good' job as a father than fathers who live with their children.  

While less than half (49%) of non-coresident dads rated themselves as doing a 'very good' or 'good' job, fully 88% of coresident dads said the same.  

One-fourth of non-coresident dads said they were doing an 'okay' job, and 22% said they were doing a job that was 'not very good' or 'bad'.



Dads Divorce: What surprised you about these findings? Was there any unexpected data?

Gretchen Livingston: I'm not sure if any results were totally unexpected, but I did think the variation in involvement among non-coresident fathers was very interesting.

On the one hand, almost one-in-five (18%) reported that they had no visits in the past year with their children, and only minimal contact.  

On the other hand, some 14% of non-coresident dads reported seeing their kids several times a week on average, and talking or emailing them several times a week, as well.