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5 Reasons Why Moms Establish Paternity, and 5 Reasons They Don't

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

My two most recent posts focused on dad's involvement, and lack thereof, at the birth of his child. One of the factors that can influence whether an unmarried dad is involved in the earliest stage of his child's life is mom's willingness to name him as the father of her child. 

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As vital as paternity establishment can be to increase the chance that an unmarried dad will be involved in his child's life, little research exists on the reasons why an unmarried mom chooses or not to name the dad as her child's father. 

That's why the research conducted on 800 unmarried Texas moms by the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin continues to be so valuable in increasing the knowledge of direct-service providers about the factors that influence their ability to effectively engage fathers. This research reveals 11 motivators for an unmarried mom establishing paternity. The top 5 from highest to lowest proportion are:

  • Having dad's name on the birth certificate
  • Ensuring mom's child has a legal dad
  • Mom really wanted to establish paternity
  • Dad really wanted to establish paternity
  • Making sure dad is responsible for the child

Clearly, many moms want dad's involvement. Indeed, 7 in 10 unmarried Texas parents--not just in this sample but based on hospital records--establish paternity. Nevertheless, that means 3 in 10 don't, certainly not an insignificant number. The top 5 motivators for an unmarried mom not establishing paternity from highest to lowest proportion are:

  • Dad wasn't present/involved leading up to the birth
  • Dad didn't want to establish paternity
  • Dad didn't think it important to establish paternity
  • Mom didn't think it important to establish paternity
  • Dad doubts he's the father

How can you use this knowledge? 

Use it to identify parents at risk of not establishing paternity and increase the chance they will establish paternity. Ask mom and dad, for example, how important it is for dad to have his name on the birth certificate. Ask them whether it's important that their child has a legal tie to dad. Ask them how important establishing paternity is to them. And to attack the most important motivator for a mom not establishing paternity, get dad involved before his child is born. See my two most recent posts for ways to do just that.

Don't sit idly by and take it for granted that mom and dad want to establish paternity. Remember that establishing paternity leads to a number of benefits for the family that include:

  • The right to include dad's name on the birth certificate.
  • The child’s eligibility for public and private benefits through dad (e.g. health and life insurance, social security, veteran’s benefits, and inheritance).
  • Access to dad's genetic history.
  • The ability to file for child support or establish visitation.

Be sure mom and dad know these benefits.

Do you take it for granted that mom and dad are motivated to establish paternity?

Do you try to identify the likelihood that mom and dad are motivated to establish paternity?

Do you tell mom and dad about the benefits of establishing paternity?

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