New Study Further Debunks Deadbeat Dad Myth

deadbeat dadThe image of the deadbeat dad that skips child support payments, shuns his children and leaves a desperate single mom to fend for herself still looms large in society.

However, a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family provides even more evidence that the stereotype of a deadbeat father doesn’t really match up with reality.

The study, “How Much In-Kind Support Do Low-Income Nonresident Fathers Provide? A Mixed-Method Analysis,” is authored by Kathryn Edin, Timothy J. Nelson, and Jennifer B. Kane. Previous research has largely focused on cash payments made through the courts (formal payments) or given directly to the mother (informal support). This study differs by examining non-cash goods (in-kind support) provided by fathers.

The researchers conducted repeated, semistructured interviews with nearly 400 low-income noncustodial fathers in three cities and discovered that in-kind support made up nearly a quarter of the total support provided – nearly $60 per month. “In-kind” support could include baby products, clothing, food, or any other non-monetary contribution. Even the “deadbeats” who gave no cash support at all provided $63 per child each month in in-kind support.

“The most disadvantaged dads end up looking like they’re completely distanced from their kids but they’re actually giving quite a lot,” Edin said in a statement. “I was really surprised by how much these disadvantaged guys, these truly marginally employed men, are putting all of this thought and what little resources they have into showing their children that they care.”

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This isn’t the first time Edin and Nelson, her husband, have studied the contributions of low-income non-custodial fathers. In 2013, they authored, “Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City,” which dispelled many myths regarding so-called deadbeat fathers.

In researching the book, Edin and Nelson interviewed 110 mostly unmarried dads in New Jersey and Philadelphia and found that many tried compensating for their lack of financial support by forming deeper emotional ties to their children.

That circles back to their most recent study. Further analysis revealed that the logic for the fathers they interviewed to provide in-kind support is relational rather than financial – meaning that providing in-kind support helped them foster a relationship with their children.

As was noted on the National Parents Organization blog, the child support system is inherently flawed because by only recognizing financial contributions, it weakens the relationship between fathers and children.

Edin and her colleagues’ research is emphasizing that the value dads bring goes much further than a simple dollar amount.

“We need to respect what these guys are doing, linking love and provision in a way that’s meaningful to the child,” Edin said. “The child support system weakens the child-father bond by separating the act of love from the act of providing.”

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7 comments on “New Study Further Debunks Deadbeat Dad Myth

    This study is outrages so a single mother has to go broke because the father does not want to support the child but wants to develop an emotional bond while the mother struggles to pay for day care, clothing, diapers and necessities of a child not even to mention when the child is sick having to take time off work and struggling to pay bills, not to mention they are raising non biological children… While the father refuses to even watch the child while the mother attends school because it does not fit his schedule. Oh but he wants rights on when to see her. Yea emotional bond is far more important. There’s a balance and as much as the mother is responsible so is the dad everything should be 50/50 after all she did not get pregnant on her own.

    As I have told my legislators, child support should be a shared responsibility and not a requirement for the noncustodial parent to provide a government mandated lifestyle for the children, and by inference, the custodial parent.

    My ex-wife refuses to get a job, and uses my ‘child support’ payment as income. When I asked my family court judge for credit toward my child support obligation for the things I buy for the kids out of pocket from Craigslist gigs, I was told that those are ‘gifts to the children’ because they were not formal child support routed through the courts collection system.

    If it were up to me, child support would be handled using a child support trust account in the form of a special purpose checking account that BOTH parents put money into in order to provide for the children’s needs.

    Child support compliance should also be measured as the percentage of parents (with the means to do so) who are sharing the responsibility for providing for their children’s needs, and not as the gross amount of ‘child support’ collected.

    You need to do a story ( perhaps you already have) pointing out how recklessly irresponsible it is for the court to decide how much money dad needs to pay out before anyone even figures out how much it costs dad to live. Its outrageous that Fathers pay 20-35% of thier pay PLUS extras. How is this even constitutional? Dad has a right just like Mom does to live and just because he was in a bad marriage does not mean he lives in his car while Mom vacations 4 times a year- 3 without the kids no less. On an airplane when the oxygen masks fall in an emergency they tell you to put your mask on first, as once you are ok you can best help others. How can Men take care of their kids when they have nothing left to give? Nowhere to live? have courts throwing them in Jail when they cannot come up with the Blood Money the court demands? this is insanity and if it was aimed at any creed or Religeon it would never be tolerated but because its Men it is.

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