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The Key to Dads Establishing Paternity

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

If you read my post last week on paternity establishment, you learned 5 reasons why some moms establish paternity and 5 reasons why some moms don't

But what about dads? What's the key to dads deciding to establish paternity? 

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To answer that latter question, I again turn to research conducted by the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the University of Texas at Austin. A research brief from CRFP points to a single factor that's key to an unmarried dad signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form: whether he is present at the birth of his child.

While the importance of a dad's presence at birth to him establishing paternity is intuitive, it is remarkable how much his presence matters. For every 100 unmarried Texas dads who have a child, 77 of them are present at the birth. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) of those dads sign an AOP. Of dads not present at the birth (23), only slightly more than 1 in 10 (13%) sign an AOP.

To help us understand this remarkable difference, the CFRP researchers identified what makes dads who establish paternity different from dads who don't. The key to the difference is the quality of the relationship between dad and mom. Specifically, dads absent at birth had a troubled relationship with the mom and disconnected long before the child was born. Dads present at birth, on the other hand, had a good relationship with the mom and offered much support during the pregnancy (e.g. attended prenatal appointments and ultrasounds). For more details on the differences between these two groups of dads, I encourage you to read the research brief

How can you use this knowledge? 

  • Use it to spot the dads least likely to establish paternity. If you have the resources, locate those dads and encourage them to get and stay involved during the pregnancy by supporting mom (e.g. attend prenatal visits and ultrasounds). Encourage mom to encourage dad to get involved as her encouragement might be vital to securing his commitment of involvement during the prenatal period.
  • Provide National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) programs and resources that can help those dads to be good dads, such as the 24/7 Dad® AM and PM programs and The 7 Habits of a 24/7Dad™.
  • Provide NFI programs and resources for the moms on the importance of dad's involvement to their child's well-being and that can help them to more effectively communicate with the dad, such as the Understanding Dad™ program and Mom as Gateway™ booster session.

Unfortunately, by the time you spot the dads least likely to establish paternity, it might not be possible to salvage a romantic relationship between dad and mom. It might still be possible, however, to help them develop an amicable relationship that facilitates both of them wanting to establish paternity and dad's involvement after his child is born.

What are you doing to identify dads least likely to establish paternity?

If you identify those dads, do you discuss with dad and mom the benefits of establishing paternity? Do you provide programs and resources to help them be the best parents possible for the sake of their child?

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