Where is the F in MCH? Father involvement in African American families

Michael C. Lu*, Loretta Jones, Melton J. Bond, Kynna Wright, Maiteeny Pumpuang, Molly Maidenberg, Drew Jones, Craig Garfield, Diane L. Rowley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objectives: To: 1) review the historical contexts and current profiles of father involvement in African American families; 2) identify barriers to, and supports of, involvement; 3) evaluate the effectiveness of father involvement programs; and 4) recommend directions for future research, programs, and public policies. Methods: Review of observational and interventional studies on father involvement. Results: Several historical developments (slavery, declining employment for Black men and increasing workforce participation for Black women, and welfare policies that favored single mothers) led to father absence from African American families. Today, more than two thirds of Black infants are born to unmarried mothers. Even if unmarried fathers are actively involved initially, their involvement over time declines. We identified multiple barriers to, and supports of, father involvement at multiple levels. These levels include intrapersonal (eg, human capital, attitudes and beliefs about parenting), interpersonal (eg, the father's relationships with the mother and maternal grandmother), neighborhoods and communities (eg, high unemployment and incarceration rates), cultural or societal (eg, popular cultural perceptions of Black fathers as expendable and irresponsible, racial stratification and institutionalized racism), policy (eg, Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child support enforcement), and life-course factors (eg, father involvement by the father's father). We found strong evidence of success for several intervention programs (eg, Reducing the Risk, Teen Outreach Program, and Children's Aid Society - Carrera Program) designed to prevent formation of father-absent families, but less is known about the effectiveness of programs to encourage greater father involvement because of a lack of rigorous research design and evaluation for most programs. Conclusion: A multi-level, life-course approach is needed to strengthen the capacity of African American men to promote greater involvement in pregnancy and parenting as they become fathers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S249-S261
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1 SUPPL.2
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • African American fathers
  • Child health
  • Family
  • Maternal health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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