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Effects of Paternal Presence and Family Stability on Child Cognitive Performance

  • Terry-Ann Craigie

    (Michigan State University)

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    This study uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) to examine the effects of a father?s presence on the cognitive performance of his pre-school aged child. Cognitive performance is measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), a well-known indicator of cognitive ability and academic readiness for young children. Like previous studies, the richness of the data is exploited by including numerous covariates in the OLS regression model. In addition, the study also employs a Proxy Variable-OLS Solution to dealing with the problem of omitted variable bias. Subsequently, causal inferences can be made from the empirical findings. The study finds two distinct effects of paternal presence based on whether the child belongs to a stable versus disruptive family structure. The empirical results indicate that cognitive outcomes are statistically similar for children in stable single-parent and stable two-parent family households. However, disruptive family structures, characterized by a father?s partial presence in the home, are shown to have deleterious effects on cognitive performance compared to a stable single-parent family structure where the father has never even been present. One profound implication of these findings is the importance of family stability above family structure in producing positive child outcomes. Moreover, there is suggestive evidence that the effect of disruptive paternal presence is significantly larger for girls than for boys.

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    File URL: http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/WP08-03-FF.pdf
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    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1015.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp08-03-ff
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Wallace Hall, Princeton NJ 08544-1013
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    Web page: http://crcw.princeton.edu/

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    1. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    2. James J. Heckman, 1999. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 7288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John F. Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2001. "Family structure and children's achievements," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 249-270.
    4. Eirik Evenhouse & Siobhan Reilly, 2004. "A Sibling Study of Stepchild Well-being," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    5. Keith Finlay & David Neumark, 2008. "Is Marriage Always Good for Children? Evidence from Families Affected by Incarceration," NBER Working Papers 13928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Kevin Lang & Jay L. Zagorsky, 2001. "Does Growing up with a Parent Absent Really Hurt?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 253-273.
    7. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 1999. "Asymptotic Properties of Weighted M-Estimators for Variable Probability Samples," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1385-1406, November.
    8. Murnane, Richard J & Maynard, Rebecca A & Ohls, James C, 1981. "Home Resources and Children's Achievement," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(3), pages 369-77, August.
    9. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
    10. Gary Painter & David I. Levine, 2000. "Family Structure and Youths' Outcomes: Which Correlations are Causal?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(3), pages 524-549.
    11. Cynthia Osborne & Sara McLanahan, 2007. "Partnership Instability and Child Well-being," Working Papers 946, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    12. Reichman, Nancy E. & Teitler, Julien O. & Garfinkel, Irwin & McLanahan, Sara S., 2001. "Fragile Families: sample and design," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 303-326.
    13. G. D. Sandefur & T. Wells, . "Using Siblings to Investigate the Effects of Family Structure on Educational Attainment," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1144-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    14. Heather Antecol & Kelly Bedard, 2002. "Does Single Parenthood Increase the Probability of Teenage Promiscuity, Drug Use and Crime?," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2002-23, Claremont Colleges.
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