The Lived Experience of Black Collegiate Males with Absent Fathers: Another Generation

By Cartwright, Angie D.; Henriksen, Richard C. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The Lived Experience of Black Collegiate Males with Absent Fathers: Another Generation


Cartwright, Angie D., Henriksen, Richard C., Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


The phenomenon of absent fathers is increasing in the Black community and insight from Black males raised in these households is needed to understand how they persevere and succeed. This study explored the life experiences of collegiate Black males raised in absent father homes. Five themes emerged, which included a male role model/mentor, a supportive mother, desire to achieve an education, respect for their fathers, and resilience. The authors discuss these themes and present implications for future studies focused on counselors working with Black males raised in absent father households.

Keywords: Black males, absent fathers, single mothers

Over the kst four decades there has been a drastic increase in the number of children growing up in fatherless homes, and today approximately 25% of children are being raised in homes led primarily by mothers and grandmothers (Kissman, 2001; Snyder, McLaughlin, & Findeis, 2006). According to Kissman, only 50% of divorced fathers see their children, and even fewer never married fathers see their children. DeBeIl (2008) noted that 69% of Black students in kindergarten through 12th grade live in fatherless homes.

The absence of fathers is a major factor in many issues such as crime and delinquency, premature sexuality, poor educational achievement, and poverty, which have negatively impacted society (Popenoe, 1996). Incarceration rates for young Black males are six to eight times higher than they are for young White males (Pettit & Western, 2004) and incarceration has become a common issue for Black males without college educations. Pettit and Western also found approximately 30% of Black males without a college education spent time in prison by their midthirties. Approximately 30% of all Black males have been incarcerated and this number is doubled for Black males who dropped out of high school (Pettit & Western), Additionally, Cook and Córdova (2007) reported that, in 2005, 73.5% of Black males between the ages of 18-24 graduated from high school but only 38% of those graduates enrolled in college.

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of collegiate Black males raised in absent father households. In this research study, the term absent father is used to describe a strained relationship between father and son resulting in little contact between father and son. Exploring the experienees of Black collegiate males raised in absent father households could assist counselors seeking to help Black males with their advancement toward success. Focusing on the experience of living fatherless, the following research question guided this study: What does the relationship between father and son mean to the collegiate Black male student?

Living With an Absent Father

The majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists oeme from fatherless homes, and the effects of growing up in absent father homes can iast for a lifetime (BaskervUle, 2004; Daniels, 1998). Researchers focusing on Black males wno place importance on education indicated resiliency played a major role in their process of completing baccalaureate degrees (Warde, 2008). Warde (2008) defined resiliency as the internal drive and desire to persist towards goals when circumstances become difficult and when faced with chalienges. According to Harbowski, Matón, and Grief (1998), parents can instill in their sons the belief that their success or failure depends On their efforts to excel, succeed, and achieve ^ spite of racism and societal barriers. Even though Black males have been categorized as One of the most at risk populations in education (Carson, 2004; Jackson & Moore, 2006; Sue & Sue, 2007), researchers have demonstrated that familial support is a crucial factOr for successful Black children who overcame adversity (Harbowski, Matón, & Grief, 2006; Johnson-Garner & Meyers, 2003; Jones, Zalot, Foster, Sterrett, & Chester, 2007). …

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