CDC Study Shatters Myth about Black Fathers
Stacy M. Brown | 8/13/2014, 3 p.m.
Terrence Morgan has heard the stories over and over. Black men are absent from their children’s lives. An African-American woman stands more likely to be a single mom than any other race.
Morgan, 33, who has two sons, ages 6 and 4, lives in Southeast next door to a close friend who only sees his child once a week.
“I just couldn’t live peacefully without being active in my sons’ lives,” said Morgan, a medical assistant. “It’s in the inner-cities, all over the news, black men abandon their children or black women have to struggle alone. That’s just not me, though,” he said.
A 2012 federal government survey revealed that 15 million American children live in households without fathers; a stark increase over a 1960 study that showed just 11 percent lived in homes without a dad.
However, by most measures, black fathers have proven to be just as involved with their children as other dads in similar living conditions – or more so – according to the latest study released in July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics in Atlanta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials looked at the role that American fathers play in parenting their children. Much of the CDC’s previous research on family life, which the agency explores as an important contributor to public health and child development, has focused exclusively on mothers.
However, the latest information reveals that the stereotypical gender imbalance in this area doesn’t hold true and African-American dads are just as hands-on when it comes to raising their children.
In fact, in its coverage of the study, the Los Angeles Times noted that the results, “defy stereotypes about black fatherhood,” because CDC officials found that African-American dads are more involved with their children on a daily basis than fathers from any other racial group.
“It sort of reminds me of when ‘The Cosby Show’ debuted 30 years ago. Some people, accustomed to seeing black folks in subservient or clownish roles, didn’t think it was realistic enough,” said James Ragland, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News in Texas.
“But all around me, even in my rural small town, there were plenty of families modeling the same parenting behavior: stable homes, disciplined children, caring parents. Yes, there still are too many broken homes and too many fathers not living with their children, especially in the black community. But it’s high time to put this myth about the absent black father to rest,” said Ragland, who noted that while his own father had faults, being absent wasn’t among them.
In fact, Ragland said while his father shot hoops with he and his brothers, played baseball with the entire family and took the children for ice cream treats on Fridays, he didn’t think his father had done anything exceptional.
“In part, because I saw other fathers engaging their kids the same way.”
The CDC’s report further revealed that nearly half of black fathers living apart from their young children said they played with them at least several times a week, 42 percent said they fed or dined with them that frequently, and 41 percent said they bathed, diapered or helped dress them as often — rates on par with or higher than those of other men living apart from their children.