The PES Study: A Father’s First Legal Act of Fatherhood – Establishing Paternity

June 28, 2013fathers, paternity

128931126_smHigh-quality father involvement is associated with better outcomes on nearly every measure of a child’s development. When both parents are committed to the lives of their children, children are more likely to thrive.1 For children born outside of marriage, paternity establishment is an important early indicator of future father involvement. The signing of an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form is an unwed father’s first legal act of fatherhood – without it, he has none of the legal rights or responsibilities of parenthood. Voluntary signing of an AOP form in-hospital has been positively associated with increased father involvement and support over time.2

The CFRP team recently wrapped up an incredibly successful first wave of data collection for an exciting study called the Paternity Establishment Study (PES). PES is a longitudinal study of  families in Texas who had a child outside of marriage and is part of CFRP’s larger paternity project.  Some of the participating PES families had established paternity for their new baby and others had not. The level of participation from both mothers and fathers was truly overwhelming with overall sampling targets exceeded in nearly every region in Texas.

PES also builds on another of CFRP’s recent paternity studies, the Checking-in with AOP Signers (CAS) Study. CFRP is currently analyzing both PES and CAS data to investigate factors related to increasing paternity establishment, father involvement, and child support. Specific topics being examined include the mother/father relationship, the father/child relationship, parents’ AOP experience, and fathers’ financial support of their children. Findings will be shared in the fall of 2013.

CFRP is conducting a follow-up Paternity Establishment Study in the spring of 2014 which will show how father involvement and support changes over the first year of a child’s life.


  1. United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2011, July). Promoting Responsible Fatherhood: Effective Parenting. Federal Research Site. Retrieved from
  2. Mincy, R., Garfinkel, I., & Nepomnyaschy, L. (2005). In-Hospital Paternity Establishment and Father Involvement in Fragile Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(3), 611-626.