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Fathers and Measures of Father Involvement-See The Real Difference

Not all men are biological fathers and not all fathers have biological children. In addition to fathering a child, men may become fathers through adoption—which confers the same legal status, protections, and responsibilities to the man and the child as fathering a biological child.

Men also may become de facto fathers when they marry or cohabit with women who have children from previous relationships, that is, they are raising stepchildren or their cohabiting partner’s children. In this report, men were defined as fathers if they had biological or adopted children or if step- or partner’s children were living in the household.

The percentage of men raising step- or adopted children who did not also have biological children were very small, 0.2%. In 2006–2010, 44.8% of men aged 15–44 had ever had a biological child (12), and 45.0% of men aged 15–44 (28 million of the 62 million men aged 15–44) were living with biological, adopted, step-, or partner’s children, or had adopted or biological children living elsewhere (analysis of 2006–2010 data not shown.)

Dad and Child

Fathers were divided into two categories based on their co-residence with their children aged 18 years and under. Co-residential minor children were children with whom a man lived and included step- or partner’s children who were living in his household, as well as his own biological and adopted children. Non-co-residential minor children consisted of a man’s biological or adopted children who lived apart from him.

Some fathers had both co-residential and non-co-residential children—about 10%. Identical questions about specific activities were asked for both co-residential and non-co-residential children. Analyses were restricted to activities in which the man participated with these children within the 4 weeks preceding the interview.

Table 1 of this report is based on the entire sample of 10,403 men aged 15–44, but Tables 2–10 are based on the 3,928 men who are fathers. Tables 2–5 are based on the 2,200 men who had children under age 5 years, and Tables 6–9 are based on the 3,166 men who had children aged 5–18 years. Some men had children in both age groups, so Table 10 is based on 4,336 men—3,038 men who had co-residential children and 1,298 men who had non-co-residential children.

The sample size of men who do not live with their children under age 5 (Tables 2–5) is 410, so the percentages in Tables 2–5 for men who do not live with their children have larger sampling errors than the percentages based on the 1,790 men who live with children. The sample sizes on which the tables are based are shown in Table A. Results for categories of men based on small sample sizes, or those with large SEs as shown in the detailed tables should be interpreted cautiously.

Dad and Child

 Research has shown a number of factors that affect the extent to which fathers are involved in their children’s lives. This report examines five of these factors: whether he lives with the children, his current age, marital or cohabitation status, Hispanic origin and race, and education.

Table A. Distribution of fathers aged 15–44, by living arrangement and age of children: United States, 2006–2010


                                                                                                                                           With children aged:


                                                                                                                                 Under 5 years         5–18 years

                                                                                                                                 (Tables 2–5)            (Tables 6–9)

                           Living arrangement


Lives with one or more children                                                                           1,790                       2,091

Does not live with one or more of his children                                                      410                       1,075


Total                                                                                                                           2,200                       3,166 


NOTE: Due to men living with children reporting ‘‘don’t know’’ or ‘‘refused’’ for a specific activity, Table 5 is based on 1,788 men, was not an issue for comparisons made and Tables 7 and 9 are based on 2,090 men. SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Survey of Family Growth, 2006–2010.


Suggested Citation 

Jones J, Mosher WD. Fathers’ involvement with their children: the United States, 2006–2010. National health statistics reports; no 71. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.


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Tom Guu

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