Longitudinal Perceptions of Supportiveness from Biological Fathers and Maternal Mental Health Problems

by Sarah O. Meadows

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Together, increased popularity of the life course paradigm and availability of longitudinal data addressing family relationships have raised important questions about how family processes should be measured to ensure that longitudinal experiences are accurately captured. Using the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (N = 2,158) this paper focuses on trajectories of mothers’ perceived supportiveness from a biological child’s father and mental health problems five years after the birth. A mother’s relationship status with the father is significantly related to her perceptions of supportiveness with married mothers reporting the highest levels of supportiveness followed by mothers in cohabiting unions, romantic non-residential unions, and finally, mothers not in a romantic relationship with the child’s father. Increasing slopes of supportiveness are associated with fewer subsequent mental health problems, controlling for both time-varying and time-invariant maternal and relationship characteristics. The discussion calls attention to alternate ways in which longitudinal experiences can be modeled.

This paper series was made possible by the NIA funded RAND Center for the Study of Aging and the NICHD funded RAND Population Research Center.

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