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American Sociological Review





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Is active fathering by nonresident fathers a cause or a consequence of adolescent well- being? Past studies of nonresident father involvement have assumed a father effects model in which active parenting by fathers improves adolescent adjustment. A child effects model, in which fathers respond to levels of well-being among their adolescent offspring by becoming more or less involved parents, could also account for the positive association between active fathering and adolescent adjustment. We utilize nationally representative data from the 1995 and 1996 waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to estimate the cross-lagged associations between nonresident father involvement and the externalizing problems, internalizing problems, and academic achievement of 3,394 adolescents. Contrary to assumptions from a socialization perspective and findings from past research on nonresident fathers, our results do not support a father effects model. Our data are more consistent with a child effects model in which levels of adolescent well-being cause, rather than result from, levels of nonresident father involvement.


This research was supported by funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to Valarie King, principal investigator (R01 HD043384), and from core funding to the Population Research Institute, Pennsylvania State University (R24 HD41025). This study uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from NICHD, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( We thank Alan Booth, Juliana Sobolewski, Mindy Scott, Jerry Jacobs, Vincent Roscigno, Randy Hodson, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.