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Complexities dog some dads, researcher says

BOWLING GREEN - Maybe dads are more complex than some of us think.

That's the conclusion of a Bowling Green State University sociologist who helped conduct a recent study that found half of fathers who live apart from their children have ties to at least one other set of children.

“Our basic point is just that men's lives are more complicated, are more complex than they're commonly perceived,” Dr. Wendy Manning said.

The national study found that fathers with at least two sets of children in their lives are less likely to pay child support and less likely to visit the children who live apart from them.

The researchers counted biological children from different mothers, stepchildren living with them, and stepchildren who live elsewhere. “In some states, child-support policy doesn't take into account some of these factors,” Dr. Manning said.

Dr. Manning conducted the research, which has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Family Issues, with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Richmond.

The study examined 649 fathers with biological children who did not live with them with data drawn from the National Survey of Families and Households, conducted at the University of Wisconsin in 1987 and 1988. The study was paid for by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Among the nonresident fathers, half had at least one other set of children, either their own or those belonging to a new mate.

Asked how often they visited their absent children, half of all fathers said they never did. About 28 percent said they had visited several times in the previous year, and 19 percent said they visited at least once a month.

Those numbers were lower among fathers with at least one other set of children, though researchers did not offer precise percentages.

Similarly, while 77 percent of all nonresident fathers said they paid child support in the last year, the rate was lower among dads with other children in their lives.

The next step, Dr. Manning said, will be to investigate how absentee fathers with other children are affected by their circumstances.

“We're trying to figure out actually how nonresident children influence fathers, their family formation, whether or not they get married, and whether or not they have other kids,” she said.

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