Thursday, June 1, 2006

A federal report released yesterday found that 47 percent of American men without a high-school diploma have fathered a child out of wedlock, compared with about 6 percent of college graduates.

The report by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) also found that when their first children were born, 37 percent of black fathers were married, compared with 52 percent of Hispanics and 77 percent of whites.

Both marital status and education shaped the differences in American men’s attitude and behavior noted in the report on American fatherhood, which was based on a series of large-scale surveys and released yesterday by the NCHS, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Black and Hispanic men were more likely to be fathers, and to become fathers at younger ages, than white men, the NCHS reported.

The report said that, overall, American men highly value fatherhood and marriage. Of those men with children, 94 percent said being a parent was worth it, despite the cost and effort. The number was 90 percent even among men who had no children or who never had been married.

Given the choice, however, tying the knot appeals to American men. Two-thirds said it was better to be married than single. In addition, 47 percent said homosexual adults should have the right to adopt children; the figure was 70 percent among homosexual respondents and 28 percent among men who had not completed high school.

A father’s education influenced his parental experiences, according to the NCHS. The report found that college graduates expected to father two children, while those who did not graduate from high school planned three. In addition, 86 percent of the college graduates lived with their children, compared with 65 percent of men without a high-school degree.

The report also found that 65 percent of the fathers said their children were “wanted” upon their arrivals. A quarter said the births were “mistimed,” while only 9 percent said the children were not wanted.

Among the ethnic differences highlighted by the NCHS report:

• A third of both Hispanic and black men have at least one child; the figure was 19 percent among whites.

• A quarter of the black respondents had their first children before age 20; the figure was 19 percent for Hispanics and 11 percent for whites.

• Seven out of 10 Hispanic men do not attend church with their children, compared with 64 percent of whites and 54 percent of blacks.

The report found that men in traditional family situations were very much engaged in their children’s lives.

Of those men who lived with their children, 81 percent played with the children daily, and 72 percent ate meals with their children every day. More than half — 52 percent — said they helped bathe, dress and even diaper children less than 5 years old every day. Another 64 percent said they shared their personal activities and workday on a daily basis with their children.

Carpools, math problems and storybooks are the mothers’ turf, though, according to the report. Only 19 percent of the fathers said they took their children to an activity every day, while 29 percent checked homework and one quarter read aloud to their children daily. Shared roles seem popular — overall, only 37 percent said it was better for men to work and women to stay home exclusively with the children.

Meanwhile, American dads feel pretty good about it all: 90 percent said they were “good” fathers.

The findings were based on responses to the National Survey of Family Growth, which surveyed 4,928 men, ages 15 to 44. The NCHS report did not list a specific margin of error, but said that the findings were “designed to minimalize these sources of errors.”

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