WASHINGTON // Nearly half of American dads under 45 this Father's Day say they have at least one child who was born out of wedlock, while the percentage of fathers living apart from their children is has more than doubles in the past 50 years.
In encouraging news, though, among married fathers, children are said to be getting more attention from both parents at home than ever before.
A Pew Research Center report highlights the changing roles of parents as US marriage rates and traditional family households fall to historic lows.
For example, college-educated men who tend to marry and get better jobs are more involved with their children than lesser-skilled men struggling to get by.
"When a father can't provide monetarily for his offspring, he often becomes estranged," said Beth Latshaw, an assistant sociology professor at Appalachian State University, who researches changing paternal roles. "As a result, many women now raise children outside of marriage or without a father figure," Mr Latshaw said.
Pew's survey and analysis of government data, released on Wednesday, found that more than one in four fathers - or 27 per cent - with offspring 18 or younger lived away from at least one of their children. That number is more than double the share of fathers who lived apart from their children in 1960.
On the other hand, married fathers who live with their children are devoting more time helping their wives with caregiving, a task once seen as a woman's duty. Such fathers on average now spend about 6.5 hours a week on child care, which includes playing, helping children with homework or taking them to activities. That's up from 2.6 hours in the 1960s.
The 6.5 hours is still just half the amount of time mothers spend. Still, it is a gap that is narrowing; in the 1960s, fathers put in only a quarter of the time mothers did.
The Pew study found sharp differences based on race and education. Black and Hispanic fathers were much more likely to have children out of wedlock, at 72 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively, against 37 per cent for white men. Among fathers with at least a bachelor's degree, only 13 per cent had children outside marriage,against 51 per cent of those with high school diplomas and 65 per cent of those who did not finish high school.
Age, too, was a factor. Three quarters of fathers aged 20 to 24 had children out of wedlock, against 36 per cent aged 35 to 44.