Low-Income African-American Fathers and their Feelings toward Fatherhood: In their Own Voices

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The University of Maryland McNair Scholars Undergraduate Research Journal, 2, (2010): 104-124.



Negative stereotypes of African-American fathers suggest that they are uninterested in, uninvolved with, and uncommitted to their children (Julion et al, 2007; Kismann, 1997; McAdoo, 1997). The research that exists on African-American fathers suffers from several limitations. It focuses more on their roles as breadwinners (Dubowitz et al, 2006; Rasheed & Rasheed, 1999) than on other roles they might play in their families (e.g., caregiver, teacher) and is based on information collected largely through mother’s reports rather than from fathers themselves (Cabrera et al, 2000; Shears et al, 2006; Tanfer & Mott, 1997). The feelings that African-American fathers have toward fatherhood are not often represented in this research nor have they shaped a public narrative about African-American fatherhood. This study examines how African-American men perceive the role of fatherhood. The study is framed by Identity Theory which posits that individuals identify with the roles they occupy in life and act accordingly (Stryker, 1980). For the purpose of this study, I draw on qualitative data that were previously collected for the HAPPI father study. Fifteen fathers were randomly selected and the responses to four open-ended survey questions were reviewed and analyzed for themes and commonalities. Findings from this study will challenge the negative stereotypes of African-American fathers and highlight the diversity within this group.