June 16, 2017
A new study suggests widely held perceptions about low-income and African-American fathers as not being involved in the lives of their children can be largely unfounded. Data collected over 15 years in Syracuse, New York, reveal that even in cases of incarceration or living under the federal poverty line, most low-income fathers stay connected to their children.
Robert Keefe, PhD, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, and his colleagues analyzed data from five different studies between 1996 and 2011 about the mother-child relationship. Also interviewed were fathers, all of whom had been incarcerated or were presently on parole or probation. Both the mothers and the fathers talked independently of each other about how the dads stayed involved with their children.
“Regardless of what these fathers were facing, they tried to stay involved with their children,” said Keefe.
Data indicates that 94 percent of mothers interviewed say their children’s fathers were somewhat involved or highly involved with their families. Addressed is the contested issue of father absence versus father involvement, and compares individual parents’ characterization of paternal involvement with metrics from population-level datasets.
The study, African American Fathers: Disproportionate Incarceration and the Meaning of Involvement, was published recently in Families in Society, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. The Alliance is a national strategic action network of thousands of social sector leaders working toward a vision of a healthy and equitable society.
The public criticism derives from a narrow definition of “involvement.” Father involvement in this country is looked…