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Growing up without biological father in the home

Non-residential fatherhood among young people from different cultural contexts
PhD ceremony:dr. M. (Mariëlle) Osinga
When:February 08, 2024
Supervisors:prof. dr. T. (Tina) Kretschmer, prof. dr. D.D. (Diana) van Bergen
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Growing up without biological father in the home

Is it true that growing up without biological father in the home is detrimental for offspring later development universally? Or do associations between non-residential fatherhood and offspring outcomes differ with regard to the extent to which this family structure is considered to deviate from sociocultural standards or to be normative? Additionally, do we find correlates of non-residential fatherhood in late adolescence and early adulthood as well, also when looking at a broader range of outcomes? These are questions that the present dissertation aimed to answer. 

First, qualitative in-depth interviews with 50 Curaçaoan, Curaçaoan-Dutch, and Dutch young people suggested that perceptions and experiences with non-residential fatherhood vary cross-culturally, corresponding to the normativity of this family structure. Second, quantitative data from a school-based online questionnaire among 2,222 adolescents and young adults from Curaçao and the Netherlands showed no link between non-residential fatherhood and academic engagement nor father-child relationship quality and fathers’ parenting behaviors among young people from both countries. Finally, analyses indicated no association between experiencing non-residential fatherhood and later own parenting self-efficacy among 137 Dutch young people from the north of the Netherlands. 

Contrary to prevailing expectations and perceptions, the studies within this dissertation do not indicate that growing up without biological father in the home poses a universal risk for offspring outcomes. Instead, factors such as SES, father-child contact frequency, household composition, and the relationship between the biological parents likely play more important roles. We hope that these findings encourage professionals, including teachers and social workers, to avoid universally problematizing the experience of non-residential fatherhood.