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Nurturing Dads

Nurturing Dads: Fatherhood Initiatives Beyond the Wallet

William Marsiglio
Kevin Roy
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    Nurturing Dads
    Book Description:

    American fathers are a highly diverse group, but the breadwinning, live-in, biological dad prevails as the fatherhood ideal. Consequently, policymakers continue to emphasize marriage and residency over initiatives that might help foster healthy father-child relationships and creative co-parenting regardless of marital or residential status. In Nurturing Dads, William Marsiglio and Kevin Roy explore the ways new initiatives can address the social, cultural, and economic challenges men face in contemporary families and foster more meaningful engagement between many different kinds of fathers and their children. What makes a good father? The firsthand accounts in Nurturing Dads show that the answer to this question varies widely and in ways that counter the mainstream “provide and reside” model of fatherhood. Marsiglio and Roy document the personal experiences of more than 300 men from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and diverse settings, including fathers-to-be, young adult fathers, middleclass dads, stepfathers, men with multiple children in separate families, and fathers in correctional facilities. They find that most dads express the desire to have strong, close relationships with their children and to develop the nurturing skills to maintain these bonds. But they also find that disadvantaged fathers, including young dads and those in constrained financial and personal circumstances, confront myriad structural obstacles, such as poverty, inadequate education, and poor job opportunities. Nurturing Dads asserts that society should help fathers become more committed and attentive caregivers and that federal and state agencies, work sites, grassroots advocacy groups, and the media all have roles to play. Recent efforts to introduce state-initiated paternity leave should be coupled with social programs that encourage fathers to develop unconditional commitments to children, to co-parent with mothers, to establish partnerships with their children’s other caregivers, and to develop parenting skills and resources before becoming fathers via activities like volunteering and mentoring kids. Ultimately, Marsiglio and Roy argue, such combined strategies would not only change the policy landscape to promote engaged fathering but also change the cultural landscape to view nurturance as a fundamental aspect of good fathering. Care is a human experience—not just a woman’s responsibility—and this core idea behind Nurturing Dads holds important implications for how society supports its families and defines manhood. The book promotes the progressive notion that fathers should provide more than financial support and, in the process, bring about a better start in life for their children.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-776-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-xii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Chapter 1 The Landscape
    (pp. 1-29)

    Exiting the school building on a sunny afternoon, Dwight’s eyes find his adorable six-year-old son fidgeting next to his mother, Dwight’s wife, as he waits for “daddy time.” Dwight, a family man with a steady paycheck, has just completed his interview about working in this alternative school for “problem” kids as a teacher’s aide. Beaming an infectious smile, the boy’s face glows with joy—the kind that marks a child’s attachment to a loving, caring parent. He lunges at his dad to give and get a hug. Clearly, Dwight’s conviction to be an involved father is paying huge dividends. In...

  6. Chapter 2 Constructing Meanings
    (pp. 30-60)

    Two months prior to the projected birth date for his first child, twenty-year-old Francisco openly talks about his impending unplanned paternity. He feels comfortable with his chosen path, even though he only started to date his girlfriend a few months prior to her becoming pregnant.

    I can sit down and say right now I’ve done, we’ve doing the right thing. . . . I’ve been preparing myself and I’m not scared of the challenge or, I don’t doubt that I’d be a bad parent ’cause I know I’ll be a very good parent, but . . . I don’t have...

  7. Chapter 3 Building and Sustaining Bonds
    (pp. 61-91)

    Monty, a hardworking man of twenty-seven at the time, found himself enthralled with Sue, a thirty-four-year-old mother of four who had a six-year-old daughter, Beverly, and three teenagers. It was an accelerated romance—within two months of starting to date Monty and Sue were cohabiting in Monty’s small apartment. Beverly’s father was in jail, again, and was due to be released in a few months. Monty felt that the other father, of the teens, was an “abusive alcoholic.”

    Monty entered into his new informal family arrangement with Sue optimistic that he could prove to her and her children that not...

  8. Chapter 4 Negotiating Trust as Partners and Parents
    (pp. 92-123)

    Rusty is no stranger to family complexity and drama, after thirty years of life experience and three unique partnerships, with Miranda, Kristy, and Kim, resulting in a total of six children. In Rusty we can see how the self-as-father, father-child, and coparental paths can define men’s fathering, and we also learn how experiences with trust and communication in romantic relationships can alter how fathers feel, think, and act. A close look at the history of Rusty’s intimate world reveals much about the challenges public and private initiatives sometimes face when they try to foster an attentive, nurturing style of fathering....

  9. Chapter 5 Kin Work and Networks of Care
    (pp. 124-152)

    Ben is lucky to be a part of a family network that helps him to be a strong father. At twenty-three, he has hustled the streets of Indianapolis and found part-time work in construction. He has also struggled with substance abuse and short bouts of incarceration. With four children from two different mothers and a spotty employment record, Ben could see himself as a failure as a partner and as a father. Instead, he remains upbeat about his ability to work with his mother, grandmother, and siblings to welcome his children into his large family. He insists that “it’s not...

  10. Chapter 6 Community Connections
    (pp. 153-167)

    Doug, a forty-four-year-old vending machine technician, talks freely about the intense love he’s developed for his nineteen-year-old adoptive son, Sammy. Sixteen years ago Doug came into Sammy’s life when Sammy’s mother, Patricia, accepted Doug’s qualified marriage proposal—“I’ll marry you, but that’s my son legally. No step involved, nothing like that. That’s my son.” With Patricia’s help, Doug claimed legal paternity status for Sammy shortly before the wedding. Since then, as Patricia confirmed in a separate interview, Doug followed through on his commitment to be a devoted, loving father.¹

    Doug confirms his strong paternal commitment when he describes how he...

  11. Chapter 7 Transitions and Human Capital
    (pp. 168-192)

    Viewed together, the narrative snapshots we’ve shared give a sense of the dynamic dimensions of men’s lives as fathers. The stories highlight the value of understanding the critical transitions that all fathers experience, as well as the scope of the complex dilemmas and constraints they encounter along the way. They not only raise questions about the circumstances affecting when and why fathers feel vulnerable and stressed; they also indicate how fathers try to adjust to new conditions and expectations.

    Most policies and programs have lagged behind the dramatic and frequent changes in individuals’ personal and family lives in recent decades....

  12. Chapter 8 Promoting Nurturance
    (pp. 193-220)

    Nurturance is at the heart of our social-change agenda.¹ Throughout this book we have used men’s firsthand accounts to communicate the realities and possibilities for fathers’ nurturance. These stories also show how fathering is a social arrangement. We focus on the cultural, social, and physical contexts in which nurturance occurs, the interpersonal and organizational processes that shape how it unfolds over time, with an emphasis on trust building, and the meanings individuals assign to nurturance. Our goal is to inspire and help fathers in diverse settings to develop healthier bonds and more positive involvements with their children.

    Unfortunately, the legacy...

  13. Appendix: Methodological Challenges in a Qualitative Multistudy Project on Fathering
    (pp. 221-227)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 228-254)
  15. References
    (pp. 255-279)
  16. Index
    (pp. 280-292)