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Publication #FAR0146

Social Support for Mothers with Multiple Partners1

Deana Casimano and Kate Fogarty2

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It may not need to be said, but parenting is an enormous job. Parenting is made more complex when children in one family have different fathers, but new research finds that mothers may draw on social network support when needed.

Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, the researchers examined the potential for mothers with children from more than one father to draw on social network support when needed. Social network support included financial, emotional, and community support, as well as help with childcare options.

Perhaps surprisingly, the study found that having a larger extended family did not translate into the level of support these mothers expected would be available to them. Instead, better social support was found in smaller, denser kin networks because they promoted closer ties.

Also, the researchers found that the amount of support mothers felt they could get was affected by their ethnicity, health, level of education, marital status, income, and number of children. Mothers who were African-American had a high school education or less or were single were the least likely to feel they received needed support.

The researchers concluded that when mothers have children with more than one partner, they weaken the potential for support they may also receive to help raise their children. Additionally, without adequate support, the mothers in this study were more likely to have children from additional partners, creating a cycle that can create great disadvantages for their children.

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Harknett, K., & Knab, J. (2007). More kin, less support: Multipartnered fertility and perceived support among mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69 (1), 237–253.



This document is FAR0146, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date March 2008. Reviewed December 2016. Visit the EDIS website at


Deana Casimano, student; and Kate Fogarty, assistant professor; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.