Who Are the Men Caring for Maltreated Youth?

Male Primary Caregivers in the Child Welfare System

Published in: Child Maltreatment, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on September 21, 2016

by Lynsay Ayer, Mahlet Atakilt Woldetsadik, Rosalie Malsberger, Lane F. Burgette, Patricia Kohl

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The goal of this study is to better understand the characteristics of men who act as primary caregivers of maltreated children. We examined differences between male primary caregivers (fathers) for youth involved in the child welfare system and female primary caregivers (mothers). We conducted secondary data analyses of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being-II baseline data. Overall, primary caregiving fathers and mothers were more similar than different, though a few differences were revealed. Compared to mothers, fathers tended to be older and were more likely to be employed, with a higher household income and older children. Fathers and mothers did not differ in terms of depression or parenting behavior, but there was evidence that mothers have more problems with drug use compared to fathers. Compared to fathers, mothers reported higher levels of internalizing and externalizing problems in their children. Children with male primary caregivers were more likely to have experienced physical abuse but less likely to have experienced emotional abuse or witnessed domestic violence than children with female primary caregivers. These findings may help to inform researchers, practitioners, and policy makers on how to address the needs of male caregivers and their children.

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