Re-thinking Stepfathers’ Contributions: Fathers, Stepfathers, and Child Wellbeing

Sarah Gold, Kathryn J. Edin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Using data from a contemporary cohort of children, we revisit the question of whether children benefit from being close to and engaging in activities with a stepfather. We deploy the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study of nearly 5000 children born in US cities in 1998–2000, with a large oversample of nonmarital births. We explore the relationships between stepfathers’ closeness and active engagement and youth’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors and school connectedness at ages 9 and 15 for between 550 and 740 children (depending on the wave) with stepfathers. We find that the emotional tenor of the relationship and level of active engagement between youth and their stepfathers are associated with reduced internalizing behaviors and higher school connectedness. Our findings suggest that stepfathers’ roles seem to have evolved in ways that are more beneficial to their adolescent stepchildren than was previously the case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-765
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • adolescence
  • families
  • fragile families and child wellbeing
  • stepfathers


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