Near and Far: Contact of Children with Their Non-Residential Fathers

In this paper we distinguish between two measures of contact between children and their non-residential fathers: whether or not the children have seen their father in the previous year, and how many weeks the children stayed with their father. The distinction between the two is important because there are many aspects of a parent-child relationship, some of which may be met during shorter contacts, and others which may be nurtured during an extended visit at the father's house. Using data from the 1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households we find that having a legal agreement regarding joint custody is positively related to the number of weeks that a child stays with his/her father. Children are more likely to see their fathers if there is a legal child support agreement and the father pays child support, which indicates that paying child support and seeing the child are complementary activities. This pattern is reversed for the number of weeks the child stays with the father, which gives support to the hypothesis that non-residential fathers substitute one activity for another. This research highlights the need for careful consideration of different measurements of contact between non-residential parents and children in order to understand more fully the dynamics of families following divorce. For a complete reprint of this article contact Haworth Press by telephone (1-800-HAWORTH) or Email ( Article copyright The Haworth Press, Inc.