Family ties and young fathers' engagement in Cape Town, South Africa

Shelley Clark, Cassandra Cotton, Letícia J. Marteleto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Young South African fathers are often engaged in their children's lives even if they do not live together. Using longitudinal data on children (n=1,209) from the Cape Town area, the authors show that although only 26% of young fathers live with their children, 66% of nonresidential fathers maintain regular contact, and 61% provide financial support. The father-child relationship, however, is embedded in broader family ties. The type of father-mother relationship is strongly associated with whether fathers coreside with their children but not with fathers' contact with nonresidential children. Close mother and maternal grandmother bonds reduce the likelihood that fathers live with their children, whereas close ties between fathers and paternal grandmothers increase the chance that fathers visit nonresidential children. Family ties do not affect fathers' financial contributions, which are driven by men's current economic situation. These findings illustrate that father-child relationships are best understood in the context of interacting family systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-589
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • African families
  • Father-child relations
  • Intergenerational relations
  • Living arrangements
  • Nonresidential parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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