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Being born to a single mother in France: trajectories of father’s involvement over the first year of life

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This paper characterises families where the father is not living (or not living permanently) with the child from around birth, and identifies the drivers of the evolution of father contact over the first year of life across different types of household. We use a recent, nationally representative cohort of children born in France in 2011, Elfe (the Etude longitudinale française depuis l’enfance), and latent clustering techniques to identify different groups of households characterised by non-residential fatherhood. We show that non-residential fatherhood from around birth is not a marginal phenomenon in France, and it corresponds to a heterogeneity of situations, describing both advantaged and low involvement fathers, as well less disadvantaged but involved groups. Over the first year of life, most non-resident fathers managed to keep in contact with their child, including relatively disadvantaged groups such as migrant and young parents, although groups characterised by low father involvement shortly after birth lost contact. On the other hand, among a group of very involved non-resident fathers who were in a relationship with the mother, we observed high levels of contact and indeed co-residence when the child was one year of age. A number of channels emerged to explain the correlations between our latent groups and father contact at one year: notably, father engagement around birth, especially whether the father formally recognised the child. Trajectories of father–child involvement and of parental relationships are therefore at least as important as socio-economic conditions to understand future father contact.
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Keywords: France; contact with children; father’s involvement; non-residential fatherhood

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institut national d’études démographiques (INED), France 2: FORS, c/o University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Publication date: January 2020

This article was made available online on December 13, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Being born to a single mother in France: trajectories of father’s involvement over the first year of life".

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  • Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (LLCS) is a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the needs of researchers studying the life course and using longitudinal methods at the interfaces of social, developmental and health sciences. It fosters cross-disciplinary and international endeavours and promotes the creation and exploitation of longitudinal data resources as well as their application to policy issues. As the journal of the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS) it provides an opportunity for scholars at all stages of their careers to publish work crossing disciplinary boundaries which is often beyond the scope of more conventional, single-field journals.

    Longitudinal research involves the follow up of individuals, households, communities or other groups over time. Life course study focuses on the influences that shape holistic pathways from conception to adult life and old age. LLCS brings together the broad range of specialist interests in an international, multi-disciplinary, multi-method framework.

    The Editors welcome submissions which report on research or methodological development, in one or more of these fields and from a spectrum of disciplinary approaches: sociological (quantitative and qualitative), demographic, economic, geographic, historical, psychological and behavioural, epidemiological and statistical. Typically papers deal with individual data in several domains (for example physical or mental health, education, housing, employment) as they change over time, and set in their life course and policy context. International comparisons are encouraged within papers and can be made between them.

    In addition to carrying research articles, the Journal specialises in publishing study profiles introducing particular longitudinal studies to scientific and policy users and the designers and managers of other studies It explores new forms of longitudinal data collection, including the exploitation of administrative sources. Occasionally, it also publishes edited debates and invited pieces about the research-policy interface, keynote addresses at SLLS conferences, and reviews of books of special relevance to our readership. The Editors seek to ensure that all research reporting is accessible to the journal's multi-disciplinary readership and encourage comparisons and collaborations between countries and studies. We are especially eager to showcase findings from parts of the world where longitudinal studies are increasingly being established, such as East Asia, Africa and South America. LLCS strives to maintain the highest quality in accepted papers through double-blind peer review, drawing on an international as well as interdisciplinary network of editors and reviewers.

    Back issues of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies are available via the PKP Platform.

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