Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Chapter 21 in Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 2nd edition (Natasha J. Cabrera and Catherine S. Tamix-LeMonda, editors), pp. 379–396, New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2013.


Copyright © 2013 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


A great many fathers will have their fathering eliminated, disrupted, or vastly changed because they become divorced from the child’s mother. In fact, between 40% and 50% of marriages end in divorce (Cherlin, 2010). Although the divorce rate (measured as divorces per 1,000 people) is high by the standards prior to the late 1960s, it has actually fallen more than 30% since its peak in 1980. The decline in divorce rates in recent years has, however, been concentrated among the college-educated portion of the population; divorce rates among the less well educated may have even increased (Cherlin, 2010). But for both groups, divorce remains the most prevalent reason for changes in paternal parenting opportunities. For almost all divorced fathers (as well as for most mothers and children), divorce is a life-defining event, around which all other experiences are organized: before the divorce versus after the divorce. Although mothers’ parenting is generally changed by divorce, the revision to the parent-child interaction patterns is generally not as far-reaching as it is to fathers’ (Braver & Lamb, in press; Braver, Shapiro, & Goodman, 2005; Fabricius, Braver, Diaz, & Velez, 2010). The reason, of course, is the radical difference between the two parents’ custodial arrangements that typically occurs. As will be documented more precisely below, mothers generally become chief custodians of children, with fathers having visiting rights only. Although that situation has changed in recent years, due in large part to the fact that research has accumulated that illuminates the unintended negative consequences of that practice on fathers and children, it remains normative. Thus, no review of fathers and divorce can be complete or enlightening unless it also considers custody matters, as we do here.