Black fathers have long since been derided in the media as missing-in-action, disinterested, or deadbeats who traipse around impregnating women then leaving them to care for the child alone. But a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that African-American fathers are just as involved in their children’s lives as White and Latino men.
The findings refutes the notion that Black fathers are disinterested in raising or caring for their children, and contradicts the stereotype that Black fathers are the least involved of all men.
Defying enduring stereotypes about black fatherhood, a federal survey of American parents shows that by most measures, black fathers who live with their children are just as involved as other dads who live with their kids — or more so.
For instance, among fathers who lived with young children, 70% of black dads said they bathed, diapered or dressed those kids every day, compared with 60% of white fathers and 45% of Latino fathers, according to a report released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Nearly 35% of black fathers who lived with their young children said they read to them daily, compared with 30% of white dads and 22% of Latino dads. The report was based on a federal survey that included more than 3,900 fathers between 2006 and 2010 — a trove of data seen as the gold standard for studying fatherhood in the United States. In many cases, the differences between black fathers and those of other races were not statistically significant, researchers said.
While the CDC found that Black fathers who live with their children are just as involved as their peers, the same held true for fathers who do not live with their children. The statistic that 70-percent of African-American children are being raised in a single-parent-led household has been held up as proof that Black dads are not involved in their children’s lives, but the CDC report shows that this notion is just not true.
The Pew Research Center, which has tracked this data for years, consistently finds no big differences between white and black fathers. Gretchen Livingston, one of the senior researchers studying family life at Pew, wasn’t at all surprised by the new CDC data. “Blacks look a lot like everyone else,” she pointed out.
Although black fathers are more likely to live separately from their children — the statistic that’s usually trotted out to prove the parenting “crisis” — many of them remain just as involved in their kids’ lives. Pew estimates that 67 percent of black dads who don’t live with their kids see them at least once a month, compared to 59 percent of white dads and just 32 percent of Hispanic dads.
And there’s compelling evidence that number of black dads living apart from their kids stems from structural systems of inequality and poverty, not the unfounded assumption that African-American men somehow place less value on parenting. Equal numbers of black dads and white dads tend to agree that it’s important to be a father who provides emotional support, discipline, and moral guidance. There’s one area of divergence in the way the two groups approach their parental responsibilities: Black dads are even more likely to think it’s important to financially provide for their children.
In spite of empirical data proving African-American fathers are just as involved with their children as other dads—whether they live with them or not—the myth that Black fathers are derelict in their duty persists. The reason? Culp-Ressler argues that race-based stereotypes—like the “welfare queen”—are hard to get rid of because they are “deeply-ingrained” and passed off as truth.
As African-Americans we need to do a better job of highlighting the truth about our community, and many have already taken the initiative to do so. Sites like MyBrownBaby regularly dispel myths about Black parents; Beyond Baby Mama’s gives an honest and unflinching take on single parenting; Eric Payne discusses the challenges and triumphs of being a Black dad on Makes Me Wanna Holler; and Roni and Lamar Tyler discuss love, marriage, and blended families on their popular site Black and Married With Kids.
Myths about our community may continue to persist, but we don’t have to continue to perpetuate them. From now on when someone says the majority of welfare recipients are Black women, or Black men aren’t involved in their children’s lives, or there are more Black men in prison than in college you can set them straight.