Sex Roles

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Multidimensionality and Complexities of Fathering: A Critical Examination of Afro-Jamaican Fathers’ Perspectives

  • David S. GreenEmail author
  • Susan S. Chuang
  • Ross D. Parke
  • David C. Este
Original Article


Family socialization is integral to the development of well-adjusted children, and parenting by two parents provides important resources. For many families, children are socialized in contexts where their biological fathers are physically absent. Unfortunately, these children are regarded as fatherless in the literature and social commentary. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 24 Afro-Jamaican fathers in a context with a high prevalence of single female-headed families, the current study explored fathers’ perspectives on fathering presence/absence and their involvement. Thematic analysis from a social constructivist perspective revealed that children’s experiences of being fathered are complex, involving biological and social fathering. Also, fatherlessness was regarded as the opposite of fathering whereby there was a lack of behavioral, affective, cognitive, and spiritual involvement. From fathers’ own childhood experiences and being fathers themselves, they viewed the label as an inaccurate term. Rather, children may more likely experience levels of inadequate fathering or a lack of biological fathering. Moreover, complex factors including relationship dynamics and culture affect father involvement. The present findings highlight the need for policymakers and social activists to advocate for support programs for fathers and incentives to promote fathers’ involvement rather than reinforcing inaccurate labels. Also, professionals working with families should promote social fathering.


Ecological factors Family relations Fatherlessness Fathers Father absence Qualitative research Socialization Sociocultural factors 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

We would like to first state that we have read and are following the 6th edition Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, including duplicate and piecemeal publication of data, and plagiarism and self-plagiarism. We declare our intention regarding our dataset. Specifically, our study focused on two main areas: fathering and fatherlessness (non-involvement of fathers), including biological and social fathering. Given these broad areas and the many concepts explored, it is necessary to present the findings in at least two parts. In this article, we are focusing on the complexities and multidimensionality of fathering from fathers’ perspectives, including reasons for fathers’ non-involvement with their children. We are proposing to do a second article on the roles of social and biological fathering in family socialization, focusing on the various ways in which social and biological fathers are involved as well as the influence of fathers’ life course and contextual factors on fathering.

Supplementary material

11199_2019_1012_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 22.9 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family Relations and Applied NutritionUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Department of Family Relations and Human DevelopmentUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA
  4. 4.Faculty of Social WorkUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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