Fatherhood / Male Involvement Facts

Barriers to Fatherhood and Male Involvement

Teen Fatherhood

The risks associated with teen motherhood are well established. However, much less attention has been paid to the risks to both the teen father and their children. There is a need to support existing and implement new strategies to further reduce the incidences of teen fatherhood and improve the economic, physical, and mental well-being of both teen fathers and the child.

Research shows that fatherhood at a young age can result in negative developmental consequences for both the father and their children. Teens are not as equipped developmentally as adults to assume parental responsibilities and respond to the emotional and basic needs of children.

Earning Power

One of the determining factors that affect a child's well-being is the father's ability to provide financial support to the child. A father's earning power is partly a function of the length of his participation in the labor force, level of educational attainment, and his employment status.

One study revealed that non-residential fathers worked approximately 110 fewer hours a year than resident fathers or men who were not fathers. In addition, fathers with lower levels of education had a lower employment rates. These results suggest that residential status and educational attainment are significant factors in determining a father's earning potential.

Additionally, non-resident fathers are more likely to rely upon "irregular" or underground employment to increase their total income, which impacts their ability to increase their future earnings power in the regular sector.

Substance Abuse

Unmarried fathers were more likely to have abused substances. Research has revealed that a father's substance abuse is a predictive indicator of divorce, a reason for the mother to end a relationship, and a detriment to the well-being of the child.

Substance abuse is also associated with negative indicators for the child including poor parenting, increased social isolation, and spending less time together. Existing research suggests a relationship between paternal substance abuse and adverse effects on biological, developmental, and behavioral outcomes in children.


Children of fathers who have been incarcerated face challenges that result in negative consequences for their future well-being. One of the unintended consequences of incarceration is that a growing number of children will experience life without one or both of their parents.

Children of incarcerated parents have a higher likelihood of experiencing psychological problems, poorer academic performance, and habitually abusing substances. Moreover, children with incarcerated parents are five times more likely to enter prison during their youth, with 1 in 10 facing incarceration before the age of eighteen.

In 2000, 93 percent of California's prisoners were men, and 57 percent of these men had at least one minor child, affecting almost 30,000 households. In a survey conducted in 1997, incarcerated fathers had limited to no contact with their children.

A correlate result of incarceration is poorer labor market outcomes for many fathers upon their release from prison. Formerly incarcerated fathers have greater difficulty in gaining employment, finding housing, and accessing social services when compared to fathers that had never been incarcerated.

Cultural Barriers

Cultural environment plays an important role in the formation of parenting beliefs and practices. Among low-income African Americans, some studies have revealed that community pressure exists for the father not to live with the child and to play a limited paternal role. On the other hand, Hispanics reported greater pressure to marry and to provide financial support for the child, but to limit the participation in caring for the child.

Research indicates that low-income and minority fathers have greater rates of non-marital childbearing and partnership dissolution. Children in these families often experience more frequent changes in household composition where alternative father figures play a role in their lives.

Santa Clara County's racial and ethnic composition is projected to change considerably between 2000 and 2050, with the Hispanic population projected to increase 144%–the greatest increase of any ethnic group in the County. With more than 26,000 births annually, the child population is becoming more diverse than the adult population with one-third of the child population classified as White, one-third classified as Hispanic, and one-quarter as Asian American.

The Relationship Between Mother and Father

The relationship between the mother and father is a critical factor in predicting paternal involvement in the life of the child. Non-custodial and non-residential fathers will likely require different interventions than custodial and residential fathers, and thus policies and programs should be designed accordingly to affect the level of involvement.

The increased divorce rate has negative consequences for children, as more than a million children in the U.S. experience a divorce every year and almost half of all divorces involve a child under the age of eighteen. It is important to understand the effects of divorce on fathers and why divorce causes many to become less involved in the lives of their children.

Research has found that when the romantic relationship between the mother and father ends, divorced fathers are more likely to also sever their relationship with their child. One-third of divorced fathers had no contact with their children. Research has shown that children suffer psychological and emotional distress from divorces, since the non-custodial parent becomes less involved in their lives or the because of increasing parental conflict.