A recent study published in Human Nature by Jenni E. Pettay, Mirkka Danielsbacka, Samuli Helle, Gretchen Perry, Martin Daly and Antti O. Tanskanen sheds light on parental investment by biological fathers and stepfathers.
The study focused on parental investment variables derived from the pairfam questionnaire. These variables covered different dimensions of parental involvement, ranging from tangible support such as financial and practical help to more intangible measures such as intimacy, emotional support and emotional closeness.
The researchers found that birth fathers, even those separated from the child’s mother, showed more parental investment than stepfathers. However, the longer a child lived with their birth father or stepfather, the more the father invested in the child.
“Fathers who were living with the mother were closest and gave more support than divorced fathers or stepfathers,” tells Jenni Pettay, one of the authors.
“However, stepfathers and those fathers who were not living with the mother gave more support and were closer with the adolescent and adult child the longer these fathers had lived with child during their childhood. Childhood co-residence thus can have an important role in forming a personal bond between (step)father and child that extends into adulthood.”
Pettay, J.E., Danielsbacka, M., Helle, S. et al. Parental Investment by Birth Fathers and Stepfathers. Hum Nat (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-023-09450-6