Mothers reported that stepfathers were more engaged, more cooperative and shared more responsibility than their biological counterparts did, according to the study, published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Lawrence Berger, the study’s lead author, cautioned that the findings applied only to “fragile families,” defined as low-income urban families prone to nonmarital births.
Could this be good news for DC kids? (I’m thinking of the middle school misfits who lollygag around Jefferson and 7th, and occasionally interrupt my stoop reveries to ask if they can “get some peanut butter on that cracker.”) The numbers say it should be great news. In 2006, the most recent year for which the Census Bureau has data, 4,093 unmarried DC women gave birth to screaming new DC residents. Even if we dismiss half of those births as intentional (i.e., the offspring of well-off domestic partners)—and I suspect those numbers are laughably optimistic—that still leaves quite a few unwed moms and daddy-less kids, many of whom I’d place in the category of “low-income urban families prone to nonmarital births.”
Unless one wants to contend that unwed, low-income dads have a tendency to stick around and act as good role models, here’s to the possibility that at least a few of DC’s single moms will cease to fret over the significance of a flesh and blood connection between their kids and the men who raise them. And why were at it, let’s hope that biological dads have enough pride to compete with the Prince Charmings who might usurp their roles at home.