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Informal vs. formal child support: Which is better?

The results of a recent study are associating formal child support and more aggressive behavior in the children for whom the support is paid. Researchers examined unmarried parents and the presence of formal or informal support.

The study suggests that a child's development may be partially determined depending on which type of child support was present and how much was being paid. This data may help officials in Jersey City alter the current child support program so that children may receive the best outcome.

According to the study, children who are receiving mandated child support from their fathers behave more aggressively than children who do not receive formal support. This may mean that the children are receiving informal support, which is usually an agreed-upon amount paid between the two parents. Many parents prefer this route because it keeps the check out of the hands of the government, allowing for a more direct financial relationship.

If parents can agree on informal support, it is more likely that both parents are involved in the child's life, allowing for a better emotional environment where the child's development can take place.

Children at the age of 5 that are receiving informal support show increased cognitive skills, according to the study. This means that they are exhibiting better scholastic aptitude, often in the form of vocabulary skills.

The recent study examined data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. According to that data, 40 percent of unmarried fathers provided informal support for their child. Another 20 percent were paying formal support.

Much of the research in the past focused on the development of children in divorced families. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 40 percent of children are now born to unmarried parents, underscoring the importance of this study. According to one of the head researchers, never-married mothers represent the majority of single-parent families in the U.S.

Source: PsychCentral, "Downside to Court-Ordered Child Support," Janice Wood, May 15, 2012

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