Claiming fatherhood: Race and the dynamics of paternal involvement among unmarried men

Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Ronald Mincy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the black family was nearing gcomplete breakdowng due to high rates of out-of-wedlock childbearing. In subsequent decades, nonmarital childbearing rose dramatically for all racial groups and unwed fathers were often portrayed as being absent from their children's lives. The authors examine contemporary nonmarital father involvement using quantitative evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and qualitative evidence from in-depth interviews with 150 unmarried fathers. The authors find that father involvement drops sharply after parents' relationships end, especially when they enter subsequent relationships and have children with new partners. These declines are less dramatic for African American fathers, suggesting that fathers' roles outside of conjugal relationships may be more strongly institutionalized in the black community. The challenges Moynihan described among black families some forty years ago now extend to a significant minority of all American children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-177
Number of pages29
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan
  • Paternal involvement
  • Race
  • The Negro Family
  • Unmarried parents


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