How to publish your paper rejected by Demography in the Journal of Family Psychology

One of the best things about being in an interdisciplinary department is that you can publish where you want – there is not a group of “top journals” that you have to push your papers in.  My colleagues in Sociology are trying to get papers in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, and Social Forces. My colleagues in developmental psychology are going for Developmental Psychology and Child Development. In my interdisciplinary department, the only guideline we have used is that the journal have an impact factor over 1 if possible (though this is not a hard and fast rule).

Therefore, I can send my papers where I think they best fit and get a readership. Family and intimate relationship research is particularly interdisciplinary, and as such, I have a lot of options. I have submitted papers to Demography, American Sociological Review, Journal of Family Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, etcetera. Of course, I do not have papers published in all of these journals, but I have tried them all at one point or another!  What is different for interdisciplinary researchers is that after a paper is rejected at one journal, such as Demography, you might want to resubmit it to another journal in a different field, such as the Journal of Family Psychology. That is the story of this paper.

My student and I had a paper on multipartner fertility, or when women have children with more than one man.  Research had shown that when a child’s mom had a child with a new man, that child’s father’s involvement decreased. But, we wondered if that child’s father’s involvement (after the couple separated) predicted whether that child’s mother got pregnant with the new man.  So, we basically were trying to test whether there was selection by father involvement into multipartner fertility.

We wrote the paper, found evidence for our hypothesis, and submitted it to Demography. The paper was titled “The Role of Father Involvement, Supportive Coparenting, and New Partners in Future Fertility”. Here is the first paragraph of the paper we submitted.

“Nonmarital childbearing has reached historic levels; 41% of all births in 2009 were to unmarried parents, with the highest proportions to racial and ethnic minorities. Because non-marital relationships are often unstable (Bumpass & Lu, 2000), a growing number of mothers have children with more than one man, a phenomenon termed multipartnered fertility (Guzzo & Furstenberg, 2007). Mothers may incur costs from childbearing with multiple partners including decreased eligibility on the marriage market (Manning, Trella, Lyons, & Du Toit, 2010), increased stress and mental health problems, and lower parenting quality (McLanahan, 2009). Children in families with multipartnered fertility exhibit more behavior problems (Bronte-Tinkew, Horowitz, & Scott, 2009) and children born to unmarried mothers spend more of their lives in poverty and experience lower levels of social and financial support from their families (Furstenberg, 1995; Manning & Smock, 2002; Wu, 2008). Despite negative maternal and child outcomes associated with multipartnered fertility, family process-related factors that put women at risk for multipartnered fertility have not yet been identified. We posited that greater father involvement and supportive coparenting decreased the risk of multipartnered fertility among unmarried mothers.”

The paper was rejected by Demography (I don’t have the reviews because this was in 2011), but the feedback was constructive.  We eventually submitted the paper to the Journal of Marriage and Family, where it was also rejected, and then we decided to submit it to the Journal of Family Psychology.

So, our task was to rewrite a paper written primarily for a family demography audience for an audience of psychologists.  The first thing I told my student was to change the paper from talking about fertility, to talking about having babies.  We changed the title to “Another Baby? Father Involvement and Childbearing in Fragile Families”.  We rewrote the entire paper, removing jargon-heavy wording. For example, the word fertility appeared more than 60 times in the Demography version, and only once in the Journal of Family Psychology version. The words “maximum likelihood discrete-time” appeared 5 times in the Demography version and only once in the Journal of Family Psychology version. Thus, we tried to minimize the jargon of demographers and create a version of the paper that would appeal to a wider audience of family researchers.  The new first paragraph is below.

“Historic numbers of women in the US are having children outside of marriage; 41% of all births in 2010 were to unmarried parents, with the highest proportions to racial and ethnic minorities (Hamilton, Martin, & Ventura, 2011). More than half of these births were to cohabiting parents (Lichter, 2012), a majority of whom will see their union dissolve by the time their child is 5 years old (Kamp Dush, 2011). Because of the instability of these unions, many mothers are dating and forming new romantic relationships which often result in the birth of a new child, thus a growing number of mothers have children with more than one father (Guzzo & Furstenberg, 2007). Mothers who have children with more than one father experience increased stress and mental health problems and lower parenting quality compared to mothers who share children with only one father (McLanahan, 2009). Children with half-siblings exhibit more depression, poorer school performance, and greater delinquency than children with only full-siblings (Halpern-Meekin & Tach, 2008). Despite negative maternal and child outcomes associated with childbearing with multiple fathers, family process-related factors that influence whether women have additional children with new fathers have yet to be identified. We posit that when a father is involved with his child, regardless of whether or not he lives with his child, the mother of his child will be less likely to have another child with a new father.”

The reviewers at the Journal of Family Psychology had constructive feedback; the paper was given a revise and resubmit, and after revision, it was accepted and published in 2012 in the journal.  You can find the paper here. The impact factor of Demography is currently 2.305 and the Journal of Family Psychology is 1. 888.  So, slight drop in impact factor, but the paper still placed very well.  Have you ever had this experience? Tell me about it in the comments!

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