Broken Family

Father Factor in Drug and Alcohol Abuse

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Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father. Source: Hoffmann, John P. “The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use.” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (May 2002): 314-330. In a study of 6,500 children from the ADDHEALTH database, father closeness was negatively correlated with the number of a child’s friends who smoke, drink, and smoke marijuana. Closeness was also correlated with a child’s use of alcohol, cigarettes, and hard drugs and was connected to family structure. Intact families ranked higher on father closeness than single-parent families. Source: National Fatherhood Initiative. “Family Structure, Father Closeness, & Drug Abuse.” Gaithersburg, MD: National Fatherhood Initiative, 2004: 20-22. Youths are more at risk of first substance use without a highly involved father. Each unit increase in father involvement is associated with 1% reduction in substance use. Living in an intact family also decreases the risk of first substance use.
 Source: Bronte-Tinkew, Jacinta, Kristin A. Moore, Randolph C. Capps, and Jonathan Zaff. “The influence of father involvement on youth risk behaviors among adolescents: A comparison of native-born and immigrant families.” Article in Press.

Social Science Research December 2004. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, researchers examined the relationship between parent-child involvement, such as shared communication, shared activity participation, and emotional closeness and three adolescent alcohol outcomes, including alcohol use, alcohol related problems, and risky behavior co-occurring with alcohol use. This study investigated both paternal and maternal involvement in understanding adolescent alcohol outcomes. The results indicate that shared communication with fathers and emotional closeness to fathers, but not shared activity participation, had a unique impact on each alcohol outcome and were not related to maternal involvement. Source: Goncya, E.A., & van Dulmena, M.H. (2010).

Fathers do make a difference: Parental involvement and adolescent alcohol use. Fathering, 8, 93-108. A study with 441 college students revealed that a poor parental bond with one’s father was highly predictive of depression, a well-known predictor of alcohol abuse and related problems for both females and males. These findings suggest evidence for parental influences on pathways to alcohol abuse through depression. Source: Patock-Peckham, J. A., & Morgan-Lopez, A. A. (2007). College drinking behaviors: Mediational links between parenting styles, parental bonds, depression, and alcohol problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21, 297–306 A study of 296 at-risk adolescents whose fathers were drug abusers revealed that paternal smoking and drug use lead to strained father-child relationships.

This weakened relationship led to greater adolescent maladjustment with family and friends and a higher risk for adolescent drug use and smoking. Fathers who smoke cigarettes were less likely to enforce antismoking rules for their children and had weaker bonds in terms of adolescent admiration and emulation. Source: Brook, D. W., Brook, J. S., Rubenstone, E., Zhang, C., & Gerochi, C. (2006). Cigarette smoking in the adolescent children of drug-abusing fathers. Pediatrics, 117, 1339-1347. In a study using a sample of 86 African American adolescents, the researchers assessed the effects of father’s absence on adolescent drug use.

The results revealed that boys from father-absent homes were more likely than those from father-present homes to use drugs. Interestingly, the results didn’t reveal any difference between father-present and father-absent girls’ self-reported drug usage. For girls, friends’ drug use was the main predictor of drug use, while father absence was for boys. African American boys from father-absent homes might be at increased risk for drug use problems. Source: Mandara, J., & Murray, C. B. (2006). Father’s absence and African American adolescent drug use. Journal of Divorce &Remarriage, 46, 1-12 Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father. Source: Hoffmann, John P. “The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use.” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (May 2002): 314-330. Back to Top

Father Factor in Childhood Obesity

The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children. Source: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
In a study using a sample of 2,537 boys and 2,446 girls, researchers investigated the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) status at ages 4 to 5 years and mothers’ and fathers’ parenting involvement and parenting styles. The results showed that only fathers’ parenting behaviors and styles were associated with increased risks of child overweight and obesity. Mothers’ parenting behaviors and styles were not associated with a higher likelihood of children being in a higher BMI category. In the case of fathers, however, higher father control scores were correlated with lower chances of the child being in a higher BMI category. Moreover, children of fathers with permissive and disengaged parenting styles had higher odds of being in a higher BMI category. Source: Wake, M., Nicholson, J.M., Hardy, P., & Smith, K. (2007). Preschooler obesity and parenting styles of mothers and fathers: Australian national population study, Pediatrics, 12, 1520-1527. Study that looked at family lifestyle and parent’s Body Mass Index (BMI) over a nine year period found:A fathers’ body mass index (a measurement of the relative composition of fat and muscle mass in the human body) is directly related to a child’s activity level.

In a study of 259 toddlers, more active children were more likely to have a father with a lower BMI than less active children. Father’s Body Mass Index (BMI) predicts son’s and daughter’s BMI independent of offspring’s alcohol intake, smoking, physical fitness, and father’s education Furthermore, BMI in sons and daughters consistently higher when fathers were overweight or obese Physical fitness of daughters negatively related to their father’s obesity Obesity of fathers associated with a four-fold increase in the risk of obesity of sons and daughters at age 18 Source: Burke V, Beilin LJ, Dunbar D. “Family lifestyle and parental body mass index as predictors of body mass index in Australian children: a longitudinal study.” Department of Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, University of Western Australia, and the Western Australian Heart Research Institute; Perth, Australia.

Source: Finn, Kevin, Neil Johannsen, and Bonny Specker. “Factors associated with physical activity in preschool children.” The Journal of Pediatrics 140 (January 2002): 81-85. A study that looked at dietary intake and physical activity of parents and their daughters over a two year period found:Study that looked at the relationship between parent’s total and percentage body fat and daughter’s total body fat over a two and one-half year period found:

Daughter’s BMI predicted by father’s diets and father’s enjoyment of physical activity As father’s BMI rose, so did their daughter’s BMI

Source: Davison KK, Birch LL. “Child and parent characteristics as predictors of change in girls’ body mass index.” Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University

Father’s, not mother’s, total and percentage body fat the best predictor of changes in daughter’s total and percentage body fat. Source: Figueroa-Colon R, Arani RB, Goran MI, Weinsier RL. “Paternal body fat is a longitudinal predictor of changes in body fat in premenarcheal girls.” Department of Pediatrics, General Clinical Research Center, Medical Statistics Unit, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham Two studies that have looked at the determinants of physical activity in obese and non-obese children found: Obese children less likely to report that their father’s were physically active than were the children of non-obese children. This determinant not found for mothers. Father’s inactivity strong predictor of children’s inactivity.

Source: Trost SG, Kerr LM, Ward DS, Pate RR. “Physical activity and determinants of physical activity in obese and non-obese children. School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia. Source: Fogelholm M, Nuutinen O, Pasanen M, Myohanen E, Saatela T. “Parent-child relationship of physical activity patterns and obesity.” University of Helsinki, Lahti Research and Training Centre, Finland.

Children who lived with single mothers were significantly more likely to become obese by a 6-year follow-up, as were black children, children with nonworking parents, children with nonprofessional parents, and children whose mothers did not complete high school. Source: Strauss RS, Knight J. “Influence of the home environment on the development of obesity in children.” Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, New Brunswick, New Jersey Back to Top

Father Factor in Education

Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families. Source: Nord, Christine Winquist, and Jerry West. Fathers’ and Mothers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools by Family Type and Resident Status. (NCES 2001-032). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001. A study assessing 4,109 two-parent families examined the effects of early maternal and paternal depression on child expressive language at age 24 months and the role that parent-to-child reading may play in child’s language development. The results revealed that for mothers and fathers, depressive symptoms were negatively associated with parent-to-child reading.

Only for fathers, however, was earlier depression associated with later reading to child and related child expressive vocabulary development. The less the fathers read to their infants, the worse their toddler scored on a standard measure of expressive vocabulary at age two. Parents’ depression has more impact on how often fathers read to their child compared to mothers, which in turn influences the child’s language development. Source: Paulson, J.F., Keefe, H.A., & Leiferman, J. A. (2009). Early parental depression and child language development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 254–262. A study revealed that youth who have experienced divorce, separation, or a nonunion birth have significantly higher levels of behavioral problems in school than do youth who have always lived with both biological parents. In contrast to previous GPA findings, youth living in stepfamilies or single-parent families are both more susceptible to school-related behavioral problems than youth who have always lived with both biological parents.

Source: Tillman, K. H. (2007). Family structure pathways and academic disadvantage among adolescents in stepfamilies. Sociological Inquiry, 77, 383-424. Students living in father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school; 10 percent of children living with both parents have ever repeated a grade, compared to 20 percent of children in stepfather families and 18 percent in mother-only families. Source: Nord, Christine Winquist, and Jerry West. Fathers’ and Mothers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools by Family Type and Resident Status. (NCES 2001-032). Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001. Students in single-parent families or stepfamilies are significantly less likely than students living in intact families to have parents involved in their schools. About half of students living in single-parent families or stepfamilies have parents who are highly involved, while 62 percent of students living with both their parents have parents who are highly involved in their schools.

Source: Nord, Christine Winquist, and Jerry West. Fathers’ and Mothers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools by Family Type and Resident Status. (NCES 2001-032). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001. In 2001, 61 percent of 3- to 5-year olds living with two parents were read aloud to everyday by a family member, compared to 48% of children living in single- or no-parent families.

Source: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2002. Table ED1. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2003. Kindergarteners who live with single-parents are over-represented in those lagging in health, social and emotional, and cognitive outcomes. Thirty-three percent of children who were behind in all three areas were living with single parents while only 22% were not lagging behind.

Source: Wertheimer, Richard and Tara Croan, et al. Attending Kindergarten and Already Behind: A Statistical Portrait of Vulnerable Young Children. Child Trends Research Brief. Publication #2003-20. Washington, DC: Child Trends, 2003. In two-parent families, children under the age of 13 spend an average of 1.77 hours engaged in activities with their fathers and 2.35 hours doing so with their mothers on a daily basis in 1997. Children in single parent families spent on .42 hours with their fathers and 1.26 hours with their mothers on daily basis. Source: Lippman, Laura, et al. Indicators of Child, Family, and Community Connections. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2004. A study of 1330 children from the PSID showed that fathers who are involved on a personal level with their child schooling increases the likelihood of their child’s achievement. When fathers assume a positive role in their child’s education, students feel a positive impact. Source: McBride, Brent A., Sarah K. Schoppe-Sullivan, and Moon-Ho Ho. “The mediating role of fathers’ school involvement on student achievement.” Applied Developmental Psychology 26 (2005): 201-216. A national two-generation longitudinal survey revealed that children who experienced multiple family transitions were more at risk for developmental problems than children who lived in stable, two-parent families.

Additionally, the research found that black children experience more familial instability than white children.

• White children raised in a mother-only household for at least 75% of their first four years greatly increased externalizing behaviors and decreased cognitive achievement scores.

• Black children’s well-being and achievement scores are more reliant on current family structure than household status at birth. Black children are less likely than white children to be affected by family transitions. Source: Fomby, P. & Cherlin, A. J. (2007). Family instability and child well-being. American Sociological Review, 72, 181-204.

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