New Study Examines Men Who Father Children With More Than One Woman

WASHINGTON, DC— A new Child Trends study estimates that 15 percent of men, or more than one in seven, will father children with more than one woman by the age of 40. According to the study, Men Who Father Children with More Than One Woman: A Contemporary Portrait of Multiple-Partner Fertility, five percent of men will father children with more than one woman by age 25. This increases to eight percent at age 30, to 12 percent at age 35, and to 15 percent at age 40. Moreover, these men have more children than men who have multiple children with the same woman: More than one-third of men (36 percent) who had children with multiple women had four or more children. 

 Cassandra Logan, Ph.D., lead author of the study stated, “Men who father children with more than one woman find it difficult to balance financial and social responsibilities across families. Consequently, fathers may spend less time with and reduce child support payments to their children living in other households.”

 The study found that most men who had children with multiple partners – just over 70 percent -were married at the time that one or more of their children were born. This figure includes 24 percent of men who fathered children in multiple marital relationships and 46 percent of men who fathered children in a combination of marital and nonmarital relationships. The remaining 29 percent only fathered children outside of marriage. According to Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D. co-author of the study, “We were surprised that the majority of men who had births with multiple partners did so within at least one marital relationship. This defies the stereotype of men fathering multiple children all outside of marriage.” 

 The study found that 61 percent of men who fathered children with multiple women had served some time in jail, compared with 28 percent of men who fathered children with only one woman. Dr. Logan stated, “This association poses problems for children because of unstable family environments among incarcerated fathers who have limited, if any, contact with their children.” Having children with multiple partners was also found to be more prevalent among African-American men (compared with white men and Hispanic men) and men who grew up in households that were not headed by two biological parents.

The study also found that men were more likely to have children with more than one mother if they had their first sexual experience at a young age, if they fathered their first child at a young age, or if their first birth occurred outside of marriage or cohabitation. Thus, according to Manlove, “Pregnancy prevention programs that are effective at delaying early sexual activity and postponing an early first birth may also help to reduce the prevalence of multiple-partner fertility.”

The research brief analyzed men aged 15 to 44 from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.

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