How Many Black Fathers Are Defying Stereotypes

How Many Black Fathers Are Defying Stereotypes

When Larryn Porter leaves his second job, he heads to the home of his 5-year-old son to get him ready for bed and so they can watch a few minutes of wrestling together.

Porter, 30, works about 70 hours a week as a mechanic and salesman for an auto parts store. But every Sunday he takes his older two children, both 9 years old, to church with him. Sometimes, he takes their half siblings along, if their fathers aren’t too involved.

“I’m trying to find a way to have more time for my children, he said. “You gotta be Superman at times.”

Porter is a part of a counternarrative about African-American fathers emerging in popular culture and media.

Whether it’s LeBron James in a video shooting hoops with his young sons, one barely above his knee, or Snoop Dogg with his children on the E! Network, the image of the African-American father may be aligning more closely with reality in many homes.

A national study released in December found that black fathers who live with their children are just as involved in parenting as other dads — or even more so. In this group, more black fathers reported reading to their children daily, feeding or eating meals with them daily and bathing or dressing them than Hispanic or white fathers, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

African-American fathers are less likely to be living with their children than fathers of other races. Gretchen Livingston, a researcher with the Pew Research Center, says about 44 percent of black fathers were living apart from at least one child 18 years old or younger, citing data from 2008. That compares to 35 percent of Hispanic fathers and 21 percent of white fathers, she said.

But compared to those who also live apart from their children, African-American fathers reported as much involvement or more than white or Hispanic fathers in the largest study of its kind, funded by the CDC.

“This isn’t the only study that found this idea of a ‘deadbeat dad’ is a misnomer,” said Patricia Kohl, professor at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work. She has done research and conducted focus groups completed last year with urban, African-American fathers.

“They very much desire to be a part of their children’s lives, even though there were barriers for dads not in the same home,” she said. “As a society, we’ve placed that label on this group, and it’s hard to overcome that, but I really don’t believe it’s accurate.”

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Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch | Aisha Sultan — asultan@post-dispatch.com — 314-340-8300

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