Published Online: June 17, 1998
Published in Print: June 17, 1998, as Children & Families

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Researchers have spent years studying the lives of single mothers. But little is known about single fathers, especially poor, black single fathers.

Waldo Johnson Jr., an assistant professor in the school of social service administration at the University of Chicago, wants to change that. As part of a long-term national project--the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, Mr. Johnson will focus on unmarried, low-income African-American men who don't live with their children.

He will examine the relationships those fathers have with their children and with the children's mothers.

While some have portrayed such men as "deadbeat dads," Mr. Johnson's preliminary findings from a Chicago pilot study suggest that their situations are too complex to classify easily. Many of the fathers were either unemployed or had temporary jobs with no benefits. If the men think they have nothing to contribute to the family, that might explain why they are not involved, Mr. Johnson says.

The study will search for ways to promote stronger relationships between such fathers and their children. The research will take place in 20 cities, and some results will be released this summer.

America's school-age children believe their mothers are doing a pretty good parenting job, despite women's growing role in the workforce, says a recent study from the Whirlpool Foundation in Benton Harbor, Mich.

The study includes 1,005 children, ages 6 to 17, and their mothers. The children report that their mothers take care of most of the day-to-day responsibilities of raising children, such as setting doctors' appointments, helping with homework, and teaching life skills.

The children describe their mothers as "smart" and "patient" and call them hard workers. They also say they turn to their mothers first for emotional support.

The mothers describe themselves as "good listeners" and say they are "there for the children." Working mothers report spending only seven hours less caring for their children each week than stay-at-home mothers spend.

According to 1997 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 67.7 percent of women with children under age 18 work outside the home, compared with 39.4 percent in 1970.

The study, "Report Card on the New Providers," is a follow-up to the Whirlpool Foundation's 1995 study "Women: The New Providers."

--LINDA JACOBSON ljacobs@epe.org

Vol. 17, Issue 40, Page 10

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