Married Fathers More Involved with Their Kids Than Cohabiting Dads

According to a recent study conducted by Genevieve Bouchard of the School of Psychology at the University of Moncton in Canada, fathers who are married are more involved with their newborns than those who cohabitate with the mothers. Paternal involvement has become an increasingly interesting area of research in recent years because of how much it affects a child’s development. Factors that have been examined with respect to paternal involvement include being married to versus cohabiting with the mother, as well as the father’s experience with his mother. The level of maternal affection, warmth, and involvement that the father received during his childhood has been of particular interest. Researchers theorize that a father will parent similarly to how he was parented. If he received emotional support, love, and attention from his mother, he will be more inclined to demonstrate those to his children.

To test this theory and examine how marital status affects this behavior, Bouchard evaluated 158 men several weeks before their children were due and again when their children were six months old. She assessed the level of involvement that the fathers exhibited during the pregnancy and after and found that the men who received little maternal support and warmth growing up were less involved in their child’s care than those who received more. They were also less engaged during the pregnancy. But this was the case only among the men who lived with their partners and were not married. “By comparison, for men who transitioned to fatherhood in married relationships, maternal physical affection is unrelated to postnatal engagement,” Bouchard said.

This finding was critical, as it demonstrates that even if men were neglected during their youth, they can avoid acting the same way toward their children by learning prevention strategies and enhancing their parenting skills as they transition to parenthood. These men may also benefit from strategies to fortify their commitment to the mothers of their children.

Bouchard, Genevieve. Intergenerational transmission and transition to fatherhood: A mediated-moderation model of paternal engagement. Journal of Family Psychology 26.5 (2012): 747-55. Print.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

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  • Albert


    November 11th, 2012 at 5:28 AM

    Sure they can have some parenting classes but if the dads really don’t want to have anything to do with their kids then they don’t. This has nothing at all to do with whether they are good parents or not, it is just that they don’t choose to be as hands on as they need to be. Now I am a strong advocate for dads, no matter the marital situation being with their kids a lot, but honestly if they don’t want to be then what good is this doing for the child? He is going to sense the hesitation and the resentment and this is going to cause even more problems.

  • Lila


    November 11th, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    All the more reason to advocate for married families and stable homes.

  • davis


    November 11th, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    marriage makes having a child so much more special and obviously the feeling of responsibility is too much and its good to see that it has positive effects in most men.not saying that cohabitation is not good but children enjoy the commitment and assurance a marriage provides a lot better.

  • Lesia


    November 11th, 2012 at 11:49 PM

    As I started to read this article, I was wondering are married fathers “better” because they are married or are those would make good fathers going to be married. Is it marriage that makes a good father or someone who would be a good father is going to get married? I don’t know if I’m explaining myself well or not. But, by the end of the article, the question was answered. It seems that if someone is willing to get married and be responsible for all that entails, it makes sense that he would also be a good father.

  • robert


    November 11th, 2012 at 11:51 PM

    Here’s to hoping someone does’t read this and run out and get married just so he can be a good father. Divorce is way worse on a kid than having a dad who didn’t change his diapers.

  • link


    November 12th, 2012 at 4:02 AM

    Don’t you think that in some ways this is about marriage having this sense of permanence but when you are just living together you know in the back of your mind that there really isn’t that much keeping you from having one foot out the door all the time. That is not the ideal situation for any child to have to live in, nor is it a good thing for the parents of newborns either. I think that everyone wants to know that they have a supportive partner who is going to be aorund and not always looking for a way out. I am not saying that being married is that glue that always holds thinkgs together but it sure is harder to get out of a marriage than it is when you are simply living together/

  • nikki


    November 12th, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    I think its more of an individual thing than a relationship one.You could be married or unmarried,how much of care and responsibility you shoulder depends on you.The only thing marriage could provide is assurance,maybe even that is not present anymore what with the divorce rates.

    So really,to say marriage can make you a better father would be too far stretched I think.

  • Stan


    November 12th, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    Marriage has been proven to have benefits for the couple in many ways.Even when compared to cohabiting partners.And now this.Marriage really seem to have so many benefits.I think this is a good get back at all those nay-sayers who think the concept of marriage itself may be dying out.

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