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Authoritative, Authoritarian, or Something Less? Conservative Christianity and Paternal Involvement in Fragile Families

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Abstract

Using nationally representative data from married families, research has consistently demonstrated that both generic religious values and conservative Protestantism are positively associated with paternal involvement. Unfortunately, little research has focused on the association between affiliation with a conservative Christian group and paternal involvement in so-called fragile families—families in which the parents were not married when the child was born—despite the fact that this is an increasingly common parenting context in the United States. In this paper, I use labeling theory to suggest why conservative Christianity may be associated with decreased paternal involvement in fragile families and test this hypothesis using data from the one-year follow-up of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study—a longitudinal study of mostly unmarried parents residing in urban areas in the United States. Results demonstrate that affiliation with a conservative Christian denomination is negatively associated with affective paternal involvement, suggesting that conservative Christian cohabiting fathers are neither authoritarian nor authoritative—and possibly more accurately described as uninvolved.

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