This research uses unique longitudinal data to examine the dynamics of the father’s presence or absence during a child’s first few years of life and consider the extent to which overt father-presence/absence statistics mask a continuing contact with the child’s father or other potential father figures. I document the extent to which (1) substantial proportions of children born to younger mothers never have had a biological father residing in the home, (2) “net” levels of fathers’ absence at various postbirth points mask significant “gross” flows of fathers in and out of the household, and (3) large proportions of children in homes lacking the biological father have potentially significant contact with absent fathers or new father figures.

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