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Oklahoma State University

OSU researchers study single dads and child safety

Wed, February 01, 2017
Left, OSU doctoral student Erin Wood and Dr. Shelia Kennison, Wood’s faculty adviser

Oklahoma State University doctoral student Erin Wood is conducting a survey to gain insight on child safety in the growing number of households run by single fathers.

“I’m inviting single dads to participate in our online survey, which we hope to use to gain a better understanding of how to prevent injury in the home,” said Wood, who is a student in OSU’s Experimental Ph.D. program.

Since 1960, homes headed by single fathers have increased by 900 percent to more than 2.6 million households today, slowly becoming as prominent as those headed by single mothers, according to the Pew Research Center.

Despite the increase in the number of dads raising children on their own, little is known about their experiences and whether the long-term outcomes are similar to those observed in other types of households. A recent study, conducted in Canada, revealed that single dads there are at twice the risk of physical and mental health problems as married ones.  

“Our research was planned with the view that dads, whether they are single or married dads, play a very important role in children’s lives and their healthy development,” said Dr. Shelia Kennison, Wood’s faculty adviser.

Statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control show more than 12,000 children, ages 0 – 19 years, die from an unintentional injury each year in the U.S., while another 9.2 million sustain unintentional injuries that require emergency medical attention.

In a prior study, Wood and Kennison found that the rate of risk-taking by girls between the ages of 2 and 5 years was as high as the rate of boys in the same age range.

“This result was unexpected because prior research consistently showed that little boys take more risks than girls,” Wood said. “That made us curious to hear from single dads who head households. Their answers could help us make the home a safer place, and our research well worth the hard work.”

Single dads participate in the online study anonymously. Those who have their children in their care an average of at least 25 percent of the time each month, throughout the year, are invited to contact Erin Wood at 1-479-899-2570 or The researchers expect to finish the study this spring.