abstract   contents   overview   discussion   conclusion   bibliography


Promoting Inclusion in Further Education Colleges: Staff Consultation Groups. Educational Psychology in Practice, June 2000, 16, 205-212.

People who live in posh houses shouldn’t throw stones. Educational and Child Psychology. 9, no.3, 42-47, 1992. They know why the caged bird sings: the behaviour of abused girls (with L Malcolm), DECP Newsletter. 1993

The Parent Support Service: Brief Family work in school. Educational Psychology in Practice, 1998, 14, no.2, 135-139.

Men in Black Families: The Impact of fathering on children’s development. (2006). Race Equality Teaching. 24, no. 2, 45-48

Priority Ratings as an Indication of the Parents’ and the Individual Clinicians’ Perception of Severity. Child and Adolescent Mental Health. CAMHS (online publication) 2005 (with Siobain Maguire)
Daddy Can You Spare Me Some Time? Fathering; Family Breakdown And Delinquency In Black Youth: Are They Linked?. Home Office Briefing Paper (2006)

Black self concept is a negative self concept: A re-examination of the black child in Britain. Unpublished Dissertation. University of Hull (1983)
Help-seeking in foster carers: the role of Mental Health Literacy and Treatment Attitudes. British Journal of Social Work (online publication) (with S Bonfield, S Collins and P Langdon) (2009)
Black male sexuality within the sexual relationship: a polemic (submitted to Sex and Relationship Therapy Journal)

Fathering in Britain: a multi-ethnic perspective (submitted for the Norwegian Journal of Psychology)


Unpublished PhD Thesis

Beyond Father Absence:

An Investigation into Black Fathering and Child Outcomes in Britain


Jeune Alyson Guishard-Pine

Doctor of Philosophy


University College, London

June 2002


While there is an enormous range of psychological and social research into fathering, and some considerable attention paid to the possible influences upon child development of father absence, there is a paucity of research on many aspects of black fathering.  Chapter 1 reviews this literature before specifying the particular aimed of this dissertation generally devoted to addressing this imbalance, by collecting fathering and child development information from a number of multi-racial British samples. Chapter 2 presents an overview of the epistemological considerations.

The core chapters of the thesis report on four empirical studies involving four distinct samples.  Chapter 3 reports on the first pilot study that aimed to ratify the procedure and materials for obtaining information from teachers and children on family functioning in father-resident and father-non-resident families.  This first study revealed that participants who reported a closer relationship with their fathers (whether resident or not) achieved higher scores on the measure for intellectual skills.  At the same time, there was some evidence according to child reports that non-resident fathers were less involved in their children's lives. This first Pilot Study suggested possible moderating influences upon the potentially harmful effect on children of having a non-resident father.  Namely, the role of the extended family is explored.

Subsequent studies reported in the thesis further explore these same issues in relation to children's self-esteem, intellectual, emotional and social development (Chapter 4) and, in a second Pilot Study (Pilot Study Two), fathers' reports of the activities that (mainly black) resident and non-resident fathers engage in support of their children (Chapter 5).  Finally, Chapter 6 returns to children's reports of parenting activities that their fathers engage in, their reported relationships with their parents, and the influence of this on their psychological development and academic achievement.

The concluding chapters summarise the findings, drawing special attention to the need for further research on fathering, race and ethnicity from the child's perspective.  The current series of studies suggested that children's own experiences of parenting in conjunction with careful attention to race and ethnicity and the incidence and meaning of non-resident fathering, are likely and important influences upon diverse aspects of child development.






Chapter One: Introduction      

1.0 Overview of thesis      

1.1 Operational definitions     

1.1.1  'Race' and 'Ethnicity'      

1.1.2  'Family'

1.1.3  The black extended family

1.1.4 The White/European family and 'kinship'                                             

1.2      Overview of black underachievement   

1.2.1 Underachievement of black children    

1.2.2  Gender issues in black underachievement  

1.2.3 Black family life and underachievement  

2.0 Family structure      

2.1 Studies on family structure and child outcomes  

2.1.1 The ever-decreasing nuclear family: Father absence

2.1.2 Parenting and non-resident and divorced fathers 

2.1.3 British research on divorced fathers    

2.1.4 British research on family structure and child outcomes 

2.2 Paternal behaviour      

2.2.1 Overview of research into paternal behaviour  

2.2.2 The contemporary father     

2.2.3 How should we study paternal behaviour?   

2.2.4 British research into fathering behaviour   

2.2.5 Paternal behaviour and the development of boys and girls

2.2.6 Generative fathering      

2.2.7 'Father work'       

2.2.8 Contemporary research into 'father work'

3.0 Black families in psychological research  

3.1 An overview of black family research    

3.1.1 The African-American perspective    

3.1.2 The Caribbean perspective     

3.1.3 The African perspective     

3.1.4 Studies of black families in Britain  

3.2 The structure of black families     

3.2.1 Extended families and African family networks   

3.2.2 Caribbean family structure and child outcomes   

3.3 Black parenting in psychological research   

3.4 Men in Black Families     

3.4.1 Black Masculinity and Black Fathering   

3.4.2 Black Fathering of boys and girls   

3.4.3 Caribbean Fathers       

3.4.4 West African Fathers      

3.5 Contemporary issues in Black Fathering  

3.6  Overview of literature influencing hypotheses                                  

3.6.1 Theoretical Framework and Overarching Hypotheses                                        

Chapter Two: Methodological Considerations  

The Studies:                                            

Chapter Three: Pilot Study One –

 Family Structure vs. Family relationships - which affects

 Psychological development            

Chapter Four:  Study One –

 Father Availability, Family Relationships and the

 Psychological Development of Children            

Chapter Five:  Pilot Study Two –

 Black Fathering and Academic Achievement                     

Chapter Six: Study Two –

 Daddy Can You Spare Me Some Time?            

Chapter Seven: Discussion              

Chapter Eight: Conclusion                                  

Appendix One                                    

Appendix Two                          

Appendix Three                        

Appendix Four                         

Appendix Five               

Appendix Six                          

Appendix Seven                        




To the greatness of five black fathers from across the globe:

Muhammad Ali, Ruben Carter, Neville Lawrence, Nelson Mandela and

Bob Marley

Your suffering, your endurance, your dignity and your world-changing influence are examples to us all.



Although it is only my name that appears on the front of this thesis, there were many thousands of people who have made their own unique contribution to its development. Firstly, the many thousands of academics, their participants and critics, authors, journalists and musicians whose creative power has meant that I have been able to refer to a rich source of information and knowledge in the development of my own theories presented within this thesis.  The actual production would not have been at all possible without the perseverance and commitment of Professor Stuart Millar, a phenomenal father and human being, who gave me support 'beyond the call' in those times when I became frustrated and began to think that it was an impossible task, and who was able to provide the sensitive commentary required to help me to avoid this thesis becoming too much of an enquiry into the overlapping discourse between sociology and education.  My gratitude also goes out to another devoted father Dr. Howard Steele and to Dr. Norah 'The Devil's Advocate' Fredrickson who, in their own ways were able to clearly illustrate to me that the task of good supervision is an awesome responsibility that has to be taken seriously; Dr. Phil Reed and Dr. Catherine Weir for their help with the statistics, and Professor Adrian Furnham for his advice on the development of the questionnaires. To Professor Charlie Lewis, Professor Margaret O'Brien and Dr. Ann Phoenix for taking an interest in this work; Dr. Marie Stewart for being my mentor and giving me that pep talk all those years ago. To Professor Nancy Boyd-Franklin for her affirmation; Professor 'AJ' Franklin for his ears and encouragement, and to Professor Carl Bell for his 'keeping it real' strategy.  To my new mentors ( "Three Wise Women") in Bedfordshire and Luton NHS Trust: Dr. Miranda Wolpert, Dr.Deborah Christie and Dr. Jackie Dabney; Many thanks also to Professor Lesley Regan, my obstetrician, and Dr. David Taube, my nephrologist, Dr. Khaja, Dr. Palreddy and their team, Ann Keegan, Ann-Marie Ellison and Alan Levy for keeping me alive and well.  Many thanks also to 'Princess' Jenny Jones for helping me with the typing; Seán Keegan for helping me with the printing and Jerome Williams, Michael Annan, Karl Brooks and Jeffrey Guishard, four black fathers, for listening. I am grateful also for the unrelenting practical assistance and emotional support provided to me by my friends Beverley and Carl Graham, Velma Bryan, Dr. Julian Caesar, Monica Drysdale, Beverley Drakes, Jane Scott, Elaine Gordon, Leonie Munroe and Hazel Alexander. I would like to thank The London Borough of Lambeth for part-funding the research as part of my continuing professional development; Buckinghamshire, Southwark, Birmingham, Brent, Westminster, Lambeth and Avon Education Authorities and also the staff, children, mothers and fathers of St Georges CE School, Aston, Birmingham; Charles Dickens School, Borough; Castlefield County School, High Wycombe; Herbert Morrison School, Vauxhall; Wyvil School, Vauxhall; St Mark's CE School, Kennington; Christchurch CE School, North Brixton; St Leonards CE School, Streatham; Allen Edwards School, Stockwell; St Josephs RC School, Borough; English Martyrs RC School, Elephant and Castle; Joseph Lancaster School,  Elephant and Castle; John Keble Memorial CE; School, Harlesden; Wilberforce School, Maida Vale and  St Mary's CE School, Willesden; for participating in this groundbreaking research.  To everyone along the way who even whispered a word of interest and encouragement. Lastly, I would like to thank the loving spirits of my ancestors and daughters the late Cleopatra Amina and Shana Guishard-Pine; my exceptional parents Mrs. Rose Guishard and 'Rev Dr.' Henry Osborne Guishard; my entire family especially Lillian Guishard, Tony Benjamin, Elsa Benjamin, Mr Egbert Pine, Mrs. Violet Pine and Mrs. Beverley Newton for keeping the children when I needed to 'woodshed'. Lastly, Hotep! to my outstanding husband and black father Dr. Courtney Pine, OBE and our children Jamaal Adeen, Cleopatra Amina, Courtney-Isis Ayshea, Shana, Janae-Mali Athena and Ifetaiyo 'Taiyo' Kenya Aida for living in and with me.




Introduce your children to the unlimited possibilities of life

(Advice to black fathers – Haki  R Madhubuti (1990, p 189))




"The role of black men in families is one of the most conspicuously neglected areas of family research."


Taylor, Chatters, Tucker and Lewis (1990, p996)


In the 1970's there was a significant increase in the publication of research into the life of black families living in the United States.  This was largely in response to the Moynihan Report (1965) that described African-American families as pathological, culturally deviant, and in crisis. This response crescendoed in the late 1980's to mid 90's.  Staples and Mirande (1980) provided an illustration of this increase when they reported that from the 1960's to the late 70's there were around 500 research reports published. This figure represented five times more than in the previous 100 years.

In Britain, the alarm call concerning black families has largely been about the gradual rise in lone parenting and the subsequent burden of this on the State (Salmon and Law, 1995).  Although the rise largely transcends race, it is more pronounced for African/Caribbean families whose lone-parenting practices have always (in the history of reporting on the same) constituted a significant minority of families.

The growing evidence that father absence may have some effect on psychological development and on the development of boys prompted this research to contribute to the analysis of the ongoing issue of black academic underachievement. Although the global research on the effect of father absence is inconclusive, there has from time to time been some persuasive evidence of the effects in terms of social and interpersonal skills, cognitive development, cognitive style and school achievement. It is also known from studies that factors such as race and the socio-economic status of the family greatly influences academic and occupational success, and that its impact is more forceful than ability or IQ (Verma and Bagley, 1979).

To date, no known research has been conducted in Britain into the specific influence of the fathering behaviour of black (African/Caribbean) men on the psychological development of their children. The following series of Studies developed from an investigation into the effects of father absence on the psychological profile of a multi-racial group of children in Britain, to a more in-depth examination of black parenting, and specifically fathering, from both fathers' and children's reports.  It aimed to address the issue of the invisibility of men in black families, and in so doing, examined the style of fathering (as defined by a number of factors: health, hygiene and grooming, intellectual, financial, discipline, emotional, and leisure activities) and the differential outcomes on the social, emotional, intellectual and academic development of the child.  It simultaneously aimed to examine whether black mother-only households are detrimental to the psychological development of the child. 

Given the propensity of black boys who are labelled as having emotional and behavioural difficulties (e.g. Grant and Brooks, 2000), the thesis specifically examined correlates of social skills and socio-emotional status with father residence, father-child closeness and fathering behaviour.

The sheer paucity of research in these areas cannot be emphasised enough.  To date there are still only four published works in Britain, (Finch and Mason, 1993; Guishard, 1992; Phoenix, 1987; Tizard and Phoenix, 1994;) that have made any attempt to present a framework for developing the knowledge and understanding of black families and parenting in the British context. Rarely did studies employ a multivariate analysis to examine factors possibly linked to school achievement that may or may not include ethnicity and home circumstances e.g. Cockburn and Cornelius (1978).

The thesis is influenced by reports on black (African-Caribbean) underachievement (Gillborn and Gipps, 1996; Benskin, 1994), and therefore offered a review of attempts made in the past to describe and examine the relevant factors contributing to the persistent problem of black underachievement within the British school system, and the underachievement of black boys in particular.  This research built on the established findings in this area that teacher expectations are a major influence on the educational outcomes for black children.  It goes on to explore the possibility that the expectations that teachers have of children from lone parent families are also explicitly different from their expectation of children from two-parent families. There is, therefore, an examination of whether these attitudes simultaneously influenced their teaching of black children who are four times more likely to come from lone-mother households than any other racial group (Owen, 1993).

This research attempted to synthesise knowledge so far developed from theory and empirical research, into families in general and black families of African origins (mainly conducted in the United States) in particular. It aimed to promote the "cultural variant" model (McAdoo, 1988), and the 'stress-resilience' model (Martin and Martin, 1980) that will be described in detail in Chapter Two.

The organisational structure of the thesis is as follows.  Chapter One, encapsulates the review of the literature, and is further divided into the following sections.  Section 1 provided first, a summary of the operational definitions relied upon in this thesis. It is followed by a literature review of the previous research into the achievement of black children and of black boys, and finally a brief history into the relevant research linking black underachievement and family factors. In Section 2 the literature review turns to an examination and background to research into family structure and child outcomes, the specific emphasis on father absence, and ultimately progresses to a specific overview of the research on family roles and function, parenting and fathering. It is in Section 3 that a review of the available literature on the evolution of psychological and sociological research into the family structure and function for Africans throughout the diaspora begins. The review then focuses on their parenting and fathering practices and the differential effect of this on the school achievement and psychological development of children. Chapter Two addresses the methodological considerations that arise out of the literature review. It then sets the background for the designs of the studies. Chapters Three to Six describe the four Studies that were conducted on four multi-racial samples. The first Study (Pilot Study One) was ostensibly a pilot Study to refine the procedures and materials, but also to find out the extent to which the findings reflected the a priori hypotheses based on the literature review.  The second Study (Study One) examined in greater detail, the possible effects of father absence, family structure and family relationships on the psychological (intellectual, social and emotional) development of children, as well as the attitudes of teachers towards children from one and two-parent families. The third Study (Pilot Study Two) was a second pilot and exploratory study of (mainly African/Caribbean) fathers' reports of the activities that they engaged in to support their children's development. It examined whether the age and sex of the child influenced this, and whether the level of paternal involvement had differential outcomes for children's academic achievement and self-esteem. Finally, the fourth Study (Study Two) examined children's reports of the parenting activities that their fathers engaged in, their reported closeness to their parents, and the relative influence of this closeness on their psychological development and academic achievement.  Within each Study, the findings relating to the black sub-sample are highlighted.

Although there is some discussion of the results of each Study, Chapter Seven includes a general overview of the effects found within each Study, and a conclusion is presented in Chapter Eight giving suggestions for future research.




"Given the limited theoretical and empirical research available, the goal is daunting at best…"

(Jones, 1991)

These Studies have considered a wide range of variables in seeking and developing an understanding of the contribution of fathers to the psychological development of their children, and the specific parenting behaviour of particularly black fathers that promotes academic achievement.  However, although it is acknowledged that many issues of exciting potential were raised by this series of Studies, there are still more questions than answers. 

One can argue that methodological problems exist in collecting data from the child who may not be reporting family involvement with any accuracy. However, there were some consistent findings across the Studies one of which included data collected directly from fathers. It can equally be argued that the perspective of the child is of huge importance as it is the impact of fathering behaviour that needs to be measured and contrasted with the opinions of the fathers themselves, particularly when examining its relative influence on child outcomes.  The overall discussion of these and other issues is organised and presented in four main sections relating to the findings of the Studies namely: black family functioning: overarching hypotheses, family factors (multi-racial sample), personal factors, and school factors.


Overarching  Hypotheses

The empirical testing of the theoretical 'African Kin Network' revealed findings that supported the following hypotheses:

1a.  There will be a higher prevalence of black extended family households compared to white extended family households and/or a higher level of grandparent-child contact among black children than white children.

The findings of Pilot Study One supported the hypothesis that there would be a high rate of extended family households among African/Caribbean children, however this was true for all racial groups.  This finding was not strengthened within Study One where the South Asian group was found to reside in extended family households at a higher rate than both African/Caribbean and White/European children. Both Pilot Study One and Study One confirmed the hypothesis that African/Caribbean children would have a higher level of contact with their grandparents.  An effect was found only for the maternal grandparent and not for the paternal grandparent.  This finding lent some support to the notion of the black extended family as described by Martin and Martin (1980).

 1b) There will be a significant correlation between the non-residence of the black father and the extended family arrangement.

Both the findings of Pilot Study One and Study One produced significant Phi correlation coefficients demonstrating the configuration of the black extended family household around the non-residence of the black father.  These findings suggest that the black extended family household reflects the 'social support system' used to describe the black extended family as it manifests in America, (Martin and Martin, 1980). Further it exemplifies the concept of 'Africanity' (Nobles 1974b) that represents the cultural connection between Africans throughout the diaspora.

1c) There will be more positive child outcomes for children reared in black fatherless extended families compared to lone-mother families.

The findings of Pilot Study One were able to identify that there were possible benefits for the child reared in a fatherless extended family when compared to a lone mother family, for the multi-racial sample. However, the findings were only able to indicate a trend in the data in the predicted direction (one-tailed), for the level of father involvement measure.  Study One produced the significant finding for the African/Caribbean sub-sample, also showing an effect on the level of father involvement.   These combined findings point to the very real possibility that the extended family arrangement perhaps encourages and/or stablises the contribution of the black father in the care and upbringing of his child.  

2a) The level of father involvement will influence the academic accomplishments and psychological development of African/Caribbean children regardless of the residence of the father.

Pilot Study One gave an early indication that the level of black father involvement may have a positive influence on the psychological development of the child.   Black children with a low level of father involvement were found to have significantly lower scores on the Raven's test of non-verbal intelligence.   However, this was not confirmed in the main Study One, although a higher level of involvement improved the Raven's and the Self-esteem scores for the multi-racial sample.  The findings of Pilot Study Two, using direct measures of black father involvement showed that the children with highly involved fathers obtained significantly higher scores on the global self-esteem measure.  Study Two was able to strengthen this significant finding when a high level of involvement with providing financial support to the child was found to influence school self-esteem. Higher levels of black father involvement with intellectual activities and emotional support were found to improve behaviour self-esteem that strengthened the finding of Pilot Study Two where a trend was also found for the behaviour self-esteem measure.

2b) African/Caribbean non-resident fathers will be more involved with the parenting of their children than white fathers.

African/Caribbean non-resident fathers were rated as being more involved with their children than White/European fathers in Pilot Study One. This was not supported in the main Study One where no significant differences were found. White/European children did however rate their resident fathers as being more significantly involved in Study One. This hypothesis received a similarly mixed support in Study Two.  African/Caribbean non-resident fathers were rated as providing a higher level of intellectual support to their children, while White/European resident fathers were rated as providing a higher level of emotional support to their children. The difficulty in replicating the findings of Pilot Study One with any consistency may be due to the different measures of father involvement that were used for Study One, and that Pilot Study Two used direct measures of father involvement, whereas Study Two used child report.  This hypothesis therefore, is potentially an area for further study and replication.

3) Any adverse effects of non-resident black fathering can be explained by a reduction in the economic status of the family. 

Although the socio-economic status of the father was found to be a predictor of academic skills, no adverse effects of the non-resident father was found for Pilot Study One and Study One.

4) Teachers will underrate the psychological development of children from lone-mother and black families.

The teacher ratings did not demonstrate a bias towards children from two-parent families or towards South Asian and White/European children in their classes.  However, when teachers were asked to rate hypothetical children they rated children from two-parent families as having more positive attributes than children from one-parent families.

5a) There will be differences in the overall level of involvement of black fathers in parenting their sons and daughters.

None of the Studies were able to support a differential level of father involvement for boys and girls.  This may be significant in itself if simultaneously it is found that mothers are more involved with their daughters, as it may go some way to explain the prevalence of psychological difficulties amongst boys. However, comparisons between mother and father involvement were not a focus for this thesis, but is a potential area for further examination.

5b) There will be a different 'style' of black fathering for sons and daughters .

Pilot Study Two was only able to show a trend towards a higher level of financial involvement with their sons, which may indicate that in their view, black fathers attempt to model the role of a financial provider for their sons.  However, Study Two showed that black girls rated their fathers as providing more emotional support than black boys.  This significant finding may be a contributory factor in the overrepresentation of boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties and is another area that would require replication.

6a)  'Responsible' (high involvement) black fathering will show a greater emphasis on leisure activities and emotional support than other parenting tasks. This will manifest as non-significant differences between father involvement in leisure activities and emotional support for black fathers regardless of their residential status.

In Pilot Study Two, where black fathers were asked to rate their level of involvement with their children, these fathers rated their fathering style as focusing on health, hygiene and grooming and intellectual activities.  However, in Study Two, no specific area of parenting emerged as having more salience than any other.

6b) Black fathers will show a higher level of involvement with health, hygiene and grooming activities and with discipline than their white counterparts. 

African/Caribbean fathers rated their level of involvement with discipline as being significantly higher than the very small number of White/European fathers.   However, due to the disproportionate number of black fathers to white fathers, this finding is to be seen as suggestive and not firm.  No significant differences between black and white fathers were found in these areas in Study Two.

7) 'Responsible' black fathering manifesting as a higher level of father involvement, will increase self-esteem in children. 

Neither Pilot Study One nor Study One were able to show that elevated self-esteem was an outcome of a higher level of black father involvement.  However, it should be noted that these Studies did not use the same measure of self-esteem.  When black fathers were asked directly (Pilot Study Two), an effect was found for the global self-esteem measure.  There was also a trend established for the behaviour self-esteem measure. There were no effects found in Study Two.

The cumulative effect of these significant findings is that there is much worth in the examination and development of the concept of black family functioning and black fathering in the British context.  The inconsistency in the findings realistically reflects differences in the designs of the Studies and in the measures. However, the fact that any findings were significant at all is noteworthy. What is required now is further systematic steps in clarifying these findings and subjecting them to scientific scrutiny in order to assess the robustness of the effects.


Many of the results obtained for the African/Caribbean group differed from the results for the multi-racial sample in that several significant effects on child outcomes were found. For the African/Caribbean groups, the residence of the father was significantly related to positive outcomes for the child. Pilot Study Two and Study Two provided support for the notion that an outcome of quality black fathering is improved self-esteem. Children who had a resident father also had significantly higher school and social self-esteem. The African/Caribbean sample in Study Two provided further support for the finding that more advanced number skills is a potential outcome of having a resident father. 

The findings of Study Two provided the most detailed description of all, in outlining the relationship between father behaviour and child outcomes.  The findings suggested that black fathering should feature increased emotional and financial support to promote the optimal conditions for the child's academic success.  These fathering styles were linked to elevated behaviour and school self-esteem.

To maximise the opportunities for children, black fathers also need to consider redressing the balance between the activities that are utilised to increase social and moral development. The findings would further suggest that black fathers should redress the balance between the financial support of their sons to a fathering style that emphasises emotional support, if we are to even begin to measure the effect on both the actual and perceived emotional behaviour of boys in schools.

The single exploratory study that focused exclusively on direct measures of black fathering contrasted distinctly with the findings from the child perspective.  The findings of the range of exploratory analyses are discussed below.


The non-resident black father rated himself as being more involved specifically in health, hygiene and grooming areas of caregiving (Pilot Study Two), whereas the small group of black children in Pilot Study One also rated their non-resident fathers as being more involved than the black children with resident fathers.  In Study One and Study Two, black children rated their non-resident fathers as significantly less involved in their children's lives.  Pilot Study Two and Study Two reported an increased social self-esteem for children with a resident father for the African/Caribbean sub-sample. 

Marital status

Pilot Study Two was able to describe a unique aspect of the research in that it included the variable 'marital status'.  Several significant findings were reported for this variable including the elevated level of involvement of resident married black fathers in comparison to resident unmarried black fathers. Married black fathers were significantly more involved in providing discipline for the child, and for supporting them in their recreational activities.  Increased social self-esteem was also found to be an outcome for black children with married fathers.

Father involvement

Black fathers also rated themselves as having more involvement with their primary school-aged children than their secondary school-aged children and their younger children.  This may be an indication of the transitions between the stages of dependency and independency across childhood in so much as the black mother may be more involved with the child at its most dependent stage, while the black father becomes more involved during the 'middle' years and the child then becomes more independent and therefore less reliant on parental involvement in the secondary school phase.  The black father also rated himself as making higher financial contributions to his older children (Pilot Study Two).


The measure of self-perception tapped in to the gap between the notion of the black father's 'ideal' self and his actual or 'real' self. In Pilot Study Two, a confusing picture emerged regarding the lack of congruence between the fathers' ratings of their level of responsibility for supporting the child's development, and their ratings on their actual fathering behaviour. The black father's level of responsibility matched more closely with his active support for the child's intellectual development and also his overall ratings of his level of involvement.  What was unusual and unexpected was that the children whose fathers had high self-perception ratings tended to have poorer self-esteem. It may be that the child's emotional growth and self-development is undermined by the presence of a father who has an inflated sense (beyond reality) of his level of responsibility for caregiving.

Child Outcomes

The regression analyses for the African/Caribbean sub-sample demonstrated that a range of family-related variables were significant predictors of the scores on the psychological and academic measures. Significant predictors of the scores on the reading measure were found to be a more distant father-child relationship and high school self-esteem (Study Two), while significant predictors of the scores on the number measure were found to be high school self-esteem (Study Two). The significant predictors of self-esteem were a higher level of mother involvement (Study One) and a higher level of father involvement with financial contributions (Pilot Study Two).  


The Studies sought to examine the relationship between elements of family functioning - structure, behaviour and relationships.  More specifically they focused on father 'availability' as defined by the four dimensions of residence, frequency of contact, involvement and closeness to the child, their relative influence on psychological development. The findings with regard to family structure have been varied across all Studies. Some findings illustrated benefits to the child of being raised in lone-parent households, and some clearly did not.  Combined, these findings extended the view of father involvement beyond the previous perspective of dichotomies such as presence vs. absence.  The research questions and findings pointed in a direction to consider a father's 'availability', and effect on children's development as complex and multi-dimensional as well as embedded in an intricate system of family life.

Residence of the father

Although earlier studies have suggested that increased self-esteem in the child was generally seen to be a consequence of the father's place of residence, this was not reproduced in any of these Studies.  Study One produced findings to indicate that the non-residence of the father was a significant influence on the development of high self-esteem.  The latter findings were important as the samples for Pilot Study Two and Study Two were mainly drawn from the same schools and from the same year groups, using the same self-esteem measure. This is clearly an area that requires further study and replication. 

Pilot Study One and Study One contained the evidence of the Raven's non-verbal intelligence test scores to draw upon in formulating conclusions about the general costs and dividends attached to lone parenting.  However, neither of these Studies was able to demonstrate that the development of intelligence (as defined by this test) was seriously impaired as a consequence of the non-residence of the father.  Consequently, in the subsequent Studies, the non-verbal intellectual measure was substituted by the scholastic measures.  The Studies that included reading measures (Pilot Study One, Pilot Study Two and Study Two) failed to make a consistent link between the non-residence of the father and delayed reading skills.  Only Pilot Study One reported advanced reading skills for children with resident fathers and only for the sub-sample of white boys.   Conversely, Study Two reported a higher level of reading competence for children with non-resident fathers who are highly-involved and also for those fathers making higher financial contributions.  There was also no clear-cut effect of the residence of the father on the development of number skills (Pilot Study Two and Study Two), although this was clearly an area of distinction between black and white children, as the residence of the black father influenced the advanced development of number skills (Study Two). 

The level of father involvement of non-resident black fathers compared to white fathers was equivocal. Pilot Study One reported that non-resident black fathers were rated as having a higher level of involvement, whilst Study Two found black non-resident fathers were more involved specifically with intellectual activities. Study One found white non-resident fathers were rated as being more highly involved with their children, and Study Two reported a higher level of emotional support for the white sub-sample regardless of the residence status of the father. However, across all Studies, children generally rated the level of involvement of non-resident fathers as significantly lower than resident fathers.

Fathering behaviour and father involvement

Central to the view on the role inadequacy perspective is a critique of how much of the fatherhood research generally suggests that men have not adjusted to sociohistorical change.  The refrain is that men have actively resisted change in contemporary family roles and that as a result at best, men enjoy significant privileges in family life and at the worst men are seen as ignorant, incompetent, or slothful in caregiving arenas.

The Studies within this thesis however, promotes the idea that the contemporary father is on the path to generative fathering; they have embarked on the road to "caring and contributing to the life of the next generation" (Snarey, 1997), and they are making very firm steps in their endeavour. In Pilot Study One, Study One and Study Two there were notable effects of the residence of the father on father involvement and father-child closeness.

The later Studies were successful in demonstrating the benefits of specific forms of fathering behaviour whether or not the father was resident in the child's home.  It may be that the modern father is still very much in the process of evolving a parenting role that extends beyond the indirect benefits of financial support to the family and emotional support to the mother to a role that neuters parenting models, so that parenting becomes less genderised. Alternatively, perhaps the resident father has not yet achieved a salient or specific role in the child's life.  This assertion is generally supported by this series of Studies, in that the findings identified a generally higher level of father involvement for resident fathers, not a different nor distinct profile of fathering behaviour or a specific fathering style.

The Studies were also able to demonstrate that the father's level of participation with childrearing has benefits for the child's psychological development.  Pilot Study One reported that a higher level of father involvement influenced advanced reading development, while Study One reported that a higher level of father involvement influenced greater intellectual skills and more self-esteem. Pilot Study One formed the template that became the foundation of the later Studies in reporting that the level of father involvement was certainly linked to the residence of the father, whilst Study One underlined this finding, Pilot Study Two and Study Two were designed to unpack the precise nature of the parenting activities that contributed to such findings.  Study Two was able to elucidate some of the wider advantages of specific fathering activities. The findings of Study Two showed that a high level of father involvement significantly influenced the child's scores on the school and behaviour domains of self-esteem.  The level of financial support that the father offers was also found to have a significant effect on the school and behaviour self-esteem of the child.  Study Two also reported that a higher level of involvement with the emotional development of the child influenced higher behaviour self-esteem.

An area in which fathers have typically been seen as more involved than women is within the domain of play. Earlier discourse regarding men and play seemed to imply that men's relatively greater involvement in this domain was basically entertainment and had little developmental effect  (Parke, 1990).  Snarey (1993) concluded that typical father-child interactions such as playing games, going on outings, providing enrichment programs and lessons, teaching athletic skills, and verbal play – make significant contributions to children's 1)  social-emotional development, 2)  intellectual-academic development and 3)  physical-athletic development. Snarey's extensive list of father-child activity possibilities signposted the nuances of how instrumental and emotional nurturing aspects of parenting are blended in complex interactional packages. These Studies within this thesis were not however, able to suggest a distinct pattern to fathering behaviour that would corroborate any assertion that the father's role has any particular salience for the child. There is an implied notion of his being a financial provider that can only be inferred from the fact that the level of financial support influenced greater feelings of self-esteem (Study Two).

Reviews have indicated that the fathers' personal characteristics such as race and ethnicity have not been consistently related to involvement with their children (Doherty et al 1998). 

Father-child relationship

These Studies were also able to stimulate thinking about the potential adverse consequences of lone parenting in contemporary, multi-racial Britain.  It is clear from the summary so far, that there were few detrimental outcomes for children, which were a direct consequence of family structure.

There was however, fairly consistent reporting of the quality of the father-child relationship as having a significant impact on the developing child. The Studies were able to detail this somewhat in demonstrating that the quality of the father-child relationship significantly improved the psychological outcomes for the child.  Pilot Study One reported that the child's feelings of closeness to their father influence higher scores on the Raven's test of non-verbal intelligence, while Study One revealed that the child's feeling of closeness to the father influenced increased self-esteem. However, the findings also suggested that the quality of the father-child relationship is not a 'standalone' factor as it is not an isolated feature of family functioning.  In Pilot Study One, Study One and Study Two there was the general finding that the more involved a father is with his child, the closer the child feels to the father. The father-child relationship also needs to be observed and understood in conjunction with the mother-child relationship. 

Study Two reported that a more distant relationship with the father was conducive to advancing reading skills.  It may be, therefore that this finding reflected a 'feminised' profile of development of children with poor relationships with their fathers. The inference to be drawn is that these children receive more attention from their mother, which was confirmed in the findings of Study One:  Study Two explored the relevance of the mother-child relationship and not mother-child involvement. The link between increased mother-child interaction and advanced reading skills has been firmly established in early studies by researchers such as Maccoby, (1966). However, it may be that children who spend a lot of time with their fathers are more involved in 'non-verbal' (stereotyped) activities such as sports and computer games, cars and the time spent on such activities take them away from verbal and literacy-based (stereotyped) activities that women engage in.

Research in relation to the adverse effects of father non-residence has shown that weakened father-child relationships were not a logical consequence of the non-residence of the father, (Danzinger and Radin, 1990; Hamer, 1998; Hossain et al, 1997). In Pilot Study One and Study One however, children from mother-only families generally reported poorer relationships with their fathers than children from intact families. The other Study that addressed this specific question (Study One), found no evidence to support this in terms of sex, race or at all. It may be that in this series of Studies, the children were 'idealising' their non-resident father. Or it may be that access to their non-resident father represented to them an opportunity for a celebration, and otherwise for fun and festivity, as is common in the relationship between the non-resident father and the child. Rowlands (1980), argued that this phenomenon was a product of the part-time nature of the continuing relationship between the non-resident father and their children, as the non-resident father was spared the angst of dealing with the day-to-day sources of contention such as untidiness, peer relationships and behaviour at school and at home. 

Family structure and relationships

Pilot Study One and Study One were able to demonstrate that there were both benefits and pitfalls to maintaining quality relationships within the wider family.  Pilot Study One and Study One also reported that there was a higher prevalence of extended families amongst African/Caribbean and South Asian children compared to white children, but that the African/Caribbean extended family was likely to develop around the non-residence of the child's father.  The Studies further reported that South Asian children were more likely to live within an extended family household, and African/Caribbean children were more likely to live within a lone-mother household. An effect was found exclusively for the African/Caribbean sub-sample where a higher frequency of contact with grandparents significantly increased the level of wider family involvement (Study One). Pilot Study One was also able to indicate a trend (one-tailed) towards a higher level of father involvement in fatherless African/Caribbean extended family households. This might suggest that the involvement of the wider family may stabilise family relationships following transitions such as the departure or otherwise non-'availability' of a parent. This combination of findings specifically reflected the notion of the African Kin Network. 

The extended family households tended to cluster within the South Asian group who tended to obtain low scores on the family involvement measures.  This may be suggestive that the tests were not culturally-appropriate. For example, Shah (1997) wrote that religion was at the core of parenting behaviour amongst Asian families, and this was not addressed in any way in the questionnaires. South Asian children also reported significantly poorer relationships than the other two groups for the father and mother elements of the My Family and Me questionnaires. It may be that increased access to a larger number of adults in the child's everyday life meant that there were more adults contributing to their moral and social development and this might include more opportunities for chatisements and admonishments. This approach to childcare was also highlighted in Shah's report, (Shah, 1997).

Child Outcomes

The regression analyses found that there was a range of family-related variables - independent and dependent - that predicted the scores on the intellectual, self-esteem and academic measures. A lower number of siblings was found to predict higher reading scores, as was a distant relationship with the father (Study Two).  The father-child relationship was found to predict the scores on the self-esteem measure (Study One).   The predictors of the psychological measures were different for the African/Caribbean sub-sample. A higher level of mother involvement predicted self-esteem (Study One), whilst the direct measure of father involvement with the financial contributions to the child's care was found to predict self-esteem (Pilot Study Two). Lastly, the scores on the school self-esteem measure were found to predict the scores on the reading and number measures (Study Two).


In examining family structure and the role definitions of the father, the relative significance of race and culture (covered in detail above) and the gender of the child could not be ignored.  The sub-samples within the Studies were useful in providing a basis for exploring previously uncharted territory in British-based psychological research with regard to the prevalence of particular family structures and models of family functioning amongst different racial and cultural groups.   This confirmation provided the platform from which to embark on a more detailed analysis of the parenting behaviour of men in black families.


The biological factors cannot be ignored, given the relative influence of the gender of the child on a wide range of variables, across all Studies. For example, girls were rated as having more social skills and less emotional difficulties. Notwithstanding, the findings suggested that there are some influences that are within the father's control. The father's perceived support of the daughter's emotional development for example meant that boys potentially remain emotionally 'illiterate', with the associated negative outcomes on their psychological and academic development.  The consistent findings that girls are rated as having less emotional difficulties coupled with the finding of Study Two that girls rated their fathers as providing more emotional support is perhaps a snapshot through a keyhole looking through to the genesis of the high prevalence of emotional and behavioural difficulties amongst boys.

Finally, the stereotype of the itinerant, 'failing' and 'disaffected' pupil - usually a boy - who hails from a lone-mother household, needs to be swiftly and raucously challenged as having very little, if any, basis in reality.  This needs to be done if the potential adversities are to be averted, given the seemingly unrelenting rise in the divorce rate.  Alternatively, non-resident fathers have to be encouraged to retain contact and involvement with their offspring, (Baker and McMurray, 1998; Pasley and Minton, 1997).


The race of the child was not found to influence the teachers' ratings of the child's emotional development and social skills. Despite these findings, the tendency for teachers to racialise children's behaviour will continue to be a source of lively debate, given the findings of national research (Gilborn and Gipps, 1996). However, if the consistent finding that teachers racialise behaviour is in any way justified, the specific role of the family in ameliorating the effects have been suggested in these Studies.  The potential of increased participation from the extended family, for example in supporting the development of social skills; and the broadening out of the 'traditional' role of the father from rigid disciplinarian to 'emotional coach' to complement the role of the mother is likely to contribute to a more well-adjusted child. 

There is an irony that school is seen as patriarchal (Haw, 1995).  The philosophy that continues to dominate educationalists is the huge influence of the school in promoting and raising achievement. Yet schools continue to experience a mismatch between the criteria of success and the actual experience of educating the children in their charge (David, 1993).  The OFSTED framework for inspections uses a huge net of school-based factors in analysing school effectiveness such as teacher-pupil ratio, number of exclusions, the use of the budget, classroom organisation, policy development and implementation, school management, special educational needs, 'value-added' and of course the quality of teaching, (Sammons, 1994). It may be that the history and current experiences that the children bring into the school environment are greatly underemphasised within the OFSTED framework, (OFSTED, 2000). Certainly the Studies within this thesis have suggested that race and culture, gender, family structure and relationships are more influential in determining educational and psychological outcomes possibly more than the actual school attended. Clearly, this much under researched area could therefore become a vital source of information to raise achievement in schools.

The findings that are related to school factors consistently demonstrated that teacher perceptions of children from 'minority' groups might not always be to the benefit of the child.  The negative ratings of teachers for lone-mother family backgrounds are fairly persistent despite their own judgement that there is little empirical evidence to support their perceptions as being founded in reality. What can be done to address this requires firstly the acknowledgement that the phenomenon exists accompanied with the personal and political will to diminish the harmful effects of these perceptions.  This clearly requires strategic planning on a number of levels accompanied with more substantive research into these specific issues.

The findings can be seen as a new approach to an old issue that needs to be re-examined with renewed vigour. Ultimately, any changes that occur in the evolution of fathering behaviour will simultaneously need to take into account the development of boys into men.  Men may view themselves as involved psychologically; but providing for the family's economic welfare may in part threaten his psychological involvement.


Boys will be ……girls???

"…a father's function …is turning boys into men.." (Park, 1996, p4).


"Questions of how much and what kinds of activities men perform in the everyday life of the family became more interesting to researchers as record numbers of women entered the paid work force.  When researchers asked in the past "What do fathers do?" the findings tended to suggest variations on "not enough"…. Despite increased involvement from men, women still remain the 'psychic parent' or the parent who holds the children's well-being foremost in mind and takes responsibility for ensuring that needs are covered regardless of who performed the task. Dienhart (1998), pp21-24

In her qualitative (discourse analysis) study Dienhart (1998) suggests that research has been oversimplistic in examining fatherhood as two groups (e.g. father-absent vs. father-present; mothers vs. fathers) - dichotomies that were seen as being mutually exclusive or contradictory. She goes on to further suggest that the tendency to view phenomena through a dichotomous lens was particularly apparent in research concerned with men in families.  Expanding the view of parenthood beyond a matri-centric perspective and the view of fatherhood beyond father absence, were necessary features of this series of Studies.  What we were able to learn about fathering and fatherhood when we looked deeply in to and beyond the potentially limiting discourse,

Hawkins and Dollahite (1997) believed that early research into fathering was non-developmental in that it did not pay adequate attention to the process of men's 'self' growth and specifically the maturation that occurs once he becomes a father.  They posited that most research into fathering was mostly inadequate and wholly misconstrued men's motives, feelings and attitudes

about what it means to be a father.  They suggested that the research tended to be unmotivating because it suggested significant barriers to men's personal transformation.  They further argued that it was narrow in its focus, by holding up some limited external standard of paternal care that was often based on idealised models of motherhood.  A focus on the degrees and gradation in the quality of certain parenting responsibilities, as well as attending to the value that men give to such activities, may further enrich our understanding of the complex experiences of being a father. 

This viewpoint is indeed a central criticism of the research within this series of Studies, none of which drew on qualitative data and one that required that fathers describe their 'caretaking' responsibilities based on a 'standard' measure of parenting, which may on the surface appear as a model of mothering.  However, it should be noted that the 'Caretaking' and 'Fathering' questionnaires did attempt to extend the model of parenting to capture aspects of fathering behaviour that may be considered to be 'traditional' models of fathering (e.g. leisure and finance), whilst counterbalancing this with the reality that 'fathering' is indeed a subset of 'parenting' that is grossly understated. It can be argued that this understatement maintains the illusion of an exclusive skills repertoire amongst mothers that potentially fathers parenting alone have to 'adopt' (and are possibly 'emasculated' in the process) in order to become successful parents.   

Dienhart, (1998) further examined the "co-constructive interaction" of fathering behaviour through interviews primarily between the male and female partners. She wrote about the "Dance of father involvement"  (p128) where both parents construct together, meaning from their individual experiences while being influenced by other people.  In her view, the co-construction and, the creation of new meaning and possibly new perceptions, was a social process.  The result she felt was that the partners involved arrived at sympathetic perspectives that neither might have expected from their individual positions.  However, she accepts that her own individual position was also likely to add a third perspective in this 'co-construction', which is one of the main criticisms of qualitative research in areas such as the highly subjective issue of what it means to be a good parent.  It can also be argued that qualitative insights should be used to amplify quantitative findings, (Boykin, 1991).   This viewpoint would suggest that qualitative aspects of this series of Studies will naturally develop out of the replication of the findings.

There were clearly difficulties with regard to sampling that have been discussed in each Study.  However, another limitation of the samples (and consequently the designs of the Studies) was that the concept of family contained within this thesis excluded the target child's relationship with their siblings.  Handel (1960) points out the importance of sibling groups in the definition of a family as a social group.  Given the significant findings in relation to family size, it may be a useful development to include the viewpoints of sibling groups in describing their experience of their fathers.

A further limitation of the Studies was that they relied on primary-aged children, and that this may be the source of the lack of consistent findings.  However, a more realistic reason for the lack of consistent findings could also be ascribed to the fact that the dependent measures were not held constant.  Given the relevance of examining the impact of fathering from the child's perspective that emerged within the process of this series of Studies, it may be that targeting this age group was entirely appropriate not least to assist with a description of fathering.  The impressionistic findings of Pilot Study Two where direct measures of fathering behaviour were used, indicated that secondary school-aged children were less dependent on and enjoyed lower levels of involvement from their fathers than primary school-aged children.

What has been learnt

Father 'Availability'

Although the sample size was small, the results of Pilot Study One in particular found that children gave more favourable ratings for the involvement of their non-resident fathers than their resident fathers.  This may be entirely consistent with the idealisation of the absent father, (Furstenburg and Nord, 1985). Alternatively, it may be that the present father feels he is contributing well by virtue of the fact that he is resident in the child's home. Studies have demonstrated this very real possibility that resident fathers feel that their role is best summarised in terms of them just  'being there'  (Snarey, 1993).   It may be however, that the non-resident father contributes a wider range of support across a narrower band of time, because his access to the child is restricted. Any further analysis of this would need to consider the interaction between frequency of contact with the father and fathering behaviour using direct measures of father involvement in order to determine a clearer picture of the support given by non-resident fathers.

Pilot Study Two and Study Two also confirmed earliest reports of the benefits of father availability to the self-concepts of children (Biller, 1971; 1974a).  Perhaps this is an area where the role and support of educational psychologists can be enhanced within the school system.   Given the very real phenomenon of the influence of parenting on academic achievement, strategies should be given to educational psychologists to disseminate to schools that has some utility for both parents in supporting their child's development. Clearly it is not the role of the educational psychologist nor the school to determine in what ways the cultures of individual families should evolve, but they should promote the results from research of the benefits of the additional involvement of both resident and non-resident fathers.

In the third edition of his seminal book "The Role Of The Father In Child Development", Lamb (1997) guards against any simplistic 'father effect' theory of child development. Whilst fathers appear to be important for children's cognitive and emotional development, this is not an isolated independent effect but is linked to the quality of marital and parental relationships in the family context within which the child grows up.  Paternal warmth, emotional closeness and playfulness appear particularly important in fostering a successful father-child relationship.  There is emerging evidence of the psychological significance of maintaining links with non-resident fathers.  The positive language of the Child Support Act (1991) is helpful in encouraging the use of more neutral terms as residential and non-residential father to substitute for present and absent fathers. This is particularly useful in dispelling myths that absent fathers are less active than present ones.  In short, the worldview (beliefs, values and opinions) of the father is more important than his residence in shaping his relationship with and support of his child.

Gender Bias

Historically, men were concerned to pass on vocational skills to their sons, but emotionally, developed closer relationships with their daughters.  Griswold (1997) described the distinctive features of gender-bias in how fathers responded emotionally to sons and daughters. Fathers also tended to use more expressive language in writing to their daughters than sons.  He went on to suggest that there was a view that it was 'experts' such as childless male professionals and mothers, who were developing the parent-education programmes that define good fathering and that many fathers were suspicious of this and responded by rejecting what these activities had to offer whilst being simultaneously disparaging of the male professionals involved and the masculinity of these male professionals.  What may be more acceptable is the role of a father - regardless of his residence - who is enabled to take his instrumental role seriously to the point of providing for the financial and emotional security of his children.

The superiority of girls in reading is well-established in research dating back to the 1960's indicating more social reinforcement of these skills by the mother, (Maccoby, 1966). Compared to girls, boys are three times more likely to be referred for difficulties in acquiring reading skills, (Gilborn and Gipps, 1996). However, it may simply be that girls read more than boys.  In contemporary society boys are more likely to be interested in playing on computer consoles than girls – again culturally reducing their opportunities to improve their reading skills, (Downes, 1997). This also introduces the notion that toy manufacturers are also involved in the cultural disadvantage that boys face in  learning to read, as compared to girls, most toys targeted at boys are less likely to involve reading e.g. the pretend play areas of the kitchen (marketed and targeted at girls) now include reproductions of commercial products such as labelled foods, whereas boys have no such counterpart.

Although the bias of teachers to the classroom behaviour of boys and girls are well documented, (Gilborn, 1990; Grant and Brooks, 2000), it cannot simply explain the phenomenon of the poor reading performance of boys and the prevalence of learning difficulties in boys. The current picture is that boys now arrive at schools with learning difficulties and at a disadvantage for learning to read (Downes, 1997).

Curriculum Issues

The overall results of Pilot Study One and Study One, where children were required to respond to identical questionnaires about the parenting behaviour of their mothers and their fathers, suggested that when men balance their 'traditional' role with a nurturing role for young children at similar levels of responsibility as mothers, parenting approaches generally become indiscernible. It may be that this phenomenon is indicative of the multi-racial sample and consequently a manifestation of cultural patterns to childrearing, as it has been reported that gendered roles within families of African heritage is less common than within other cultural groups. (e.g. Brown et al, 1998).   The increase in fathers performing tasks associated with mothering may throw some light onto the notion of a "feminised" cognitive/learning profile first reported by Barclay and Cusomano (1968), that may begin to root itself as boys develop.  It may also go some way in describing the reasons behind the widening gap between the attainments of boys and girls at all levels of school life. It may even be that these stereotypes are actually based in reality, but this would not satisfactorily explain why the paper thin differences between the genders in terms of academic achievement at age 10-11 years (as described by the scores on the reading and number measures) become a gaping impasse within a period of 5 years.  It may be that research into the relative influence of parental support needs to be conducted for the secondary school years, to shed some light on these important factors. The present Studies focused on the primary phase. However, it should be noted here that none of the Studies found significant differences between the reading skills of boys and girls, whereas girls were found to have advanced number skills in Study Two.

Fathers are generally less involved with their sons (e.g. Morgan et al, 1988). It is irrational to argue that potential difficulties may include an increase in the reading and verbal skills of boys (e.g. Barclay and Cusomano, 1968), and/or indeed, an increase of the mathematical competence of girls as found in Study Two.  However, the potential curricular issues should not be ignored.  Perhaps a decline in family life is one of the mitigating circumstances that currently impact on the academic outcomes for boys.  If we were to seriously consider that a feminised cognitive profile is a probability for children who live without an emotionally available father, this would be placed against a backdrop of sextyping and media portrayal of the 'macho' man. This series of Studies may also stimulate further discussion and research into the widening gap between the academic attainments of boys and girls overall and the shrinking gap between the attainments of girls and boys in mathematics and other sciences in particular, (Gilborn and Gipps, 1996). Although it is clear that the equal opportunities lobby has had a significant impact in this regard, it would be of interest to explore whether the 'availability' and non-' availability' of fathers consistently impacts on the attainments in both language and mathematics or whether the impact on mathematics is more significant then the impact on language development, with a sample that is more varied particularly in terms of socio-economic and sociocultural factors.

This theory would broadly be that boys with an emotionally distant father may select subjects at 14 years that continue to follow a genderised pattern - subjects that they are potentially ill-equipped for due to their delayed visuospatial and mathematical skills.  What the findings of this series of Studies suggest therefore is that the 'availability' (as defined by either involvement, closeness, or residence) of a father was not as strong a predictor of gains in number skills as the non-'availability' of a father was of gains in language ability. Advanced reading skills were an outcome for groups of children with poorer relationships with their father in Pilot Study One, Pilot Study Two and Study Two. The scenario could arise as follows: the boy with minimal father support develops a feminised cognitive profile, consequently his reading and verbal skills are advanced beyond his relative competencies in mathematics and spatial ability.   At the age of fourteen years, the male pupil is required to select a range of examination courses. There is much evidence to show that the sex of the child influences the curriculum that they choose to follow (e.g. Mabey, 1990).  Although his strengths lie in subjects that are traditionally associated with girls, he selects traditional 'male-orientated' subjects due to peer and societal pressure, and possibly interest.  His skills are not well-matched to these subjects and subsequently he underperforms, resulting in low academic attainments. Clearly this theory would have to be tested empirically in order to begin to even formulate a way of addressing this.  Should this be proven to be the case, the roles of parents, educators and educational psychologists converge at the point of the curriculum: its message and its methods. 

The findings from this series of Studies may also generate further debate on the relative influence of a lack of male role models and school failure for boys.  The potential for the failure of boys is great when all factors are considered.  What also emerged from these Studies was that it was a joint and balanced effort from both parents that was more likely to contribute to scholastic success, (Biller, 1993; Jackson, 1999).  The Studies have clearly demonstrated that although the relationships with the parents are paramount, children, women and men all benefit when men are actively involved in the family.  Despite the many factors and multi-faceted nature of child development, strong associations have been shown between support and involvement by both parents and positive outcomes for children.  In short, when fathers assume an equitable parenting role, this increases psychological development.


The acquisition of reading skills is often the focal point of conflict in schools, (Hatcher, 1994). This series of Studies point to the interesting paradox within this society: promoting the active involvement of fathers in childcare may in fact be reducing the language competencies of children as demonstrated by the proxy measure of reading attainments.  No advanced society would promote the notion of lone-mother families or poor father-child relationships as being a viable alternative to a stable, nurturing two-parent family to increase reading skills. What should an advanced society be doing?

The more contemporary view of 'generative' fathering suggests that child-centred fathering is the current focus for increasing our understanding of the contributions of fathers to children's development. Generative fathering meets the needs of the child by ongoing work to create and maintain the relationships between the father and child. Earlier work such as Biller (1993) provided the introduction of systemic conceptualisations of parent-child interactions, noting how the father-child interaction and relationship is influenced and mediated through the mother-father-child system.  He suggested that the parent-child attachment is not an all-or-nothing quality, and that the mother's and the father's experiences of their partner's interactions with the child are subjective.  This view was formerly advanced by Rutter in his examination of academic and school achievement:

 'The father, the mother, brothers and sisters, friends and school-teachers and others all have an impact on development.  A less exclusive focus on the mother is required.  Children also have fathers!' Rutter (1974) p125

There has been a movement since the 1980's regarding the influence of home and parental roles and attitudes on school achievement, (e.g. Bastiani, 1986, 1987, 1989). The number of studies in this vein found that parent and school partnership supported achievement and that the level of involvement of parents in school life had a significant influence on achievement.  There is a fairly strong relationship between the level of attainment in absolute terms and level of participation in school activities.  In short, schools should involve men.

When the potential advantages of male input in improving results in mathematics is considered, perhaps schools will need to consider ways in which to target father involvement. Teachers are not omnipotent - there is a limit to what schools can achieve in increasing father involvement.  The extent to which a focus is made on the relative contribution of an adult male to the learning and achievement of children needs to be considered.  Bloom (1980) for example, found that there were a number of variables that influenced achievement which he grouped as alterable and non-alterable variables. These variables included the quality of teaching, the cognitive characteristics of learners, the affective characteristics of learning, the rate of learning and the home environment. Some of these variables have a greater effect on learning than others, but Bloom's research showed that family factors and the cognitive status of the child were the least strong in terms of promoting achievement following focused interventions. The findings of the series of Studies described in this thesis do not support Bloom's position.  Across all Studies, an array of family-related variables was the most significant predictors of the scores on the psychological and scholastic measures.

The multi-racial focus

Two recurring themes of 'father-absent' research were replicated in this study; Namely, the impact of father-absence on the personality development and on the emotional status of the child. These Studies, however, were able to identify significant differences between the range of measures, and more specifically the self-esteem scores of children from lone-mother and two-parent families from diverse ethnic groups in Britain. 

The Studies revealed significant similarities and differences between the racial groups and the behaviour of resident and non-resident fathers. South Asian fathers were generally reported to be less involved with childcare than the other racial groups, but were also found to be more available than the other groups, in that there were significantly less South Asian father-non-resident households than the other racial groups. Although the findings in relation to the South Asian sub-samples are consistent with other research (e.g. Jain, 1997) it is possible that the family questionnaires were biassed to Western constructs of parenting and fathering behaviour.

There were a number of differences found between the White/European and African/Caribbean fathers. Consistent with earlier reports (e.g. Brice-Baker, 1998; Nsamenang, 1987; Nwadiore, 1998) black fathers emphasised more of a discipline role through self-report.  The Studies were also able to reveal that married, black fathers were most likely to enact this role. The child-report of black fathering is wholly different, suggestive of a more nurturing, stimulating role of the father.  The Studies also indicated a link between the residence of the father and the level of discipline with the development of number skills in black children.  For black fathers a lower level of emotional support to his children was also linked to significantly lower behaviour self-esteem. The similarities that existed between fathers across racial groups were that a weaker father-child bond improved the reading development of children; and that the residence of the father increased the child's self-esteem.


An understanding of black underachievement is more difficult to obtain when the results of these Studies are considered. Although the African/Caribbean group had a significantly higher number of lone-mother families, no significant differences between one- and two-parent children were found for either their cognitive development or their academic achievement save for Study Two which produced the findings that black children with resident fathers had significantly better developed number skills. All factors considered would in fact point to a contrary finding: the longstanding prevalence of lone-mother families, the feminised classroom, the larger families, the intergenerational underachievement are headlamps for low attainments overall but most particularly for number skills. It may be that the explanation of this phenomenon is based on an interaction between personal and family factors.

Given the propensity of black boys who are (rightly or wrongly) identified as having serious emotional and behavioural difficulties, (Gilborn, 1990), the time for building on the findings of this research is now. Closer and more detailed examinations of the family structure, relationships and father behaviour of this vulnerable group, may shed some light on the particular intransigence of this phenomenon. The stereotype of the black father presented by Amin (1996) did not include his homophobia. Arguably, these feelings and attitudes are a feature of the majority of heterosexual men across ethnic groups.  It is possible that these strong feelings dissuade many fathers from providing their sons with the emotional support that they need and deserve, (Lewis and Weinraub, 1974; Morgan et al, 1988). However, for black boys the consequences of this are more far-reaching and detrimental. These early findings point to the possibility of this fear being linked to the one and only emerging difference between the fathering behaviour of black men with their sons and daughters and therefore should not be underestimated.  Black fathers would need to develop their own, personalised repertoire of physical and emotional; verbal and non-verbal signs, signals and actions to demonstrate the equity of their commitment to the emotional development of their sons and daughters.

What these Studies have particularly been able to achieve is a clearer picture of the "what?" non-resident black fathers do to support the child's development. The findings were that the school and social self-esteem are most affected by the lack of a father in the home.  This means that these Studies have provided useful indicators about how to approach and assist the child with processing their feelings about their status as a child with a non-resident father, and to minimise the potentially adverse academic consequences. Consideration should be given to developing groupwork or individual counselling for children of divorce/relationship breakdown. It is clear that schools and teachers have a role in minimising the possible effects of marital breakdown on children. Through both the pastoral care system and the curriculum, examples have been given as to how teachers can help children to adjust (Carlile, 1991). 


"We see the need for a human perspective that will make it possible to discover strengths within weaknesses and weaknesses within strengths" Martin and Martin, (1980, p2).

Black families serve as a filter against the potentially harmful inputs from society therefore although consistently described negatively in terms of their social behaviour and also described as emotionally deficient by teachers, their self-concept is not affected negatively. Hayles (1991) wrote of the survival of the black family in any form as a "miracle" indicating that the strengths of black families remain the kin networks, and extended family network.  Although the Studies were not able to show that the extended family structure provided psychological advantages for African/Caribbean children, there was some indication of the relative importance of contact with the grandparents within the African/Caribbean culture(s) and the configuration of the black extended family to support lone-mothers. Given, the consistent pattern of unmarried mothering within the African/Caribbean communities, the communities must feel empowered to define what is 'good' and desirable and what is 'bad' and undesirable from the standpoint of their own interests and conditions of existence. 

The model of nigrescence highlights the view of 'self' from an Afrocentric perspective which includes the collective view of self; arguably a notion that is allied to the collective identity of oppressed peoples. Consequently the understanding of the psychology of black people i.e. Americanised-Africans and Europeanised-Africans must be African-based. The proper understanding of black self-concept must be based on African associations and incorporate African-based analyses and conceptions in this regard. From this series of Studies, we can clearly see the importance of the African self-concept and its psychological basis for the self-concept of African/Caribbean children.

It is both vital and important that the African/Caribbean communities develop a means to express their authentic experience in this country, and an accurate workable theory is woven in to the discipline of 'Black Psychology'. It is very difficult if not important, to understand the lifestyles of black people using traditional theories developed by white psychology to explain (in the main) white people.  Although research conducted by African-American psychologists have suggested that when these traditional theories are applied to the lives of black people many incorrect, weakness-dominated and inferiority-orientated conclusions come about. This was not generally the findings from this very early study of black family life and its impact on children in the British context. In fact, there were very few findings to conclude the 'inferiority' of African/Caribbean children and/or their families. 

The Scarman report (1981) found that black parents were particularly hesitant to take a full and active part in school life.  The London Borough of Brent Education Committee quoted in Lynch (1986) have pointed out that schools cannot involve themselves in effective discourse on raising achievement unless they give full rein to the involvement of parents.  The question remains, how can the school be more open to father involvement?  How in particular can schools be open to more black fathers?  

The findings of these series of Studies suggested that there is a huge issue around the visibility and invisibility of black fathers.  The finding that his physical presence in the home is linked to the advancement of number skills is important in that there were no specific activities linked with this.  This suggested that 'just being there' is of crucial importance and that black men should be simply encouraged to come in to the school and just…be there.


"'Stroking' may be used as a general term for intimate physical contact; in practice it may take various forms.  Some people literally stroke an infant; others hug or pat it, while some people pinch it playfully or flip it with a fingertip…." Berne, (1986, p14) .

The competing demands of father as nurturer and father as breadwinner has to be addressed if we are to enable men to participate in 'good-enough' fathering. The tension is, that in modern living the material demands of both adults and children are so extraordinarily high that it is potentially a disincentive for men to return to a situation of 'masculine domesticity'.  Women's wage work has already forced rapid developments in the role-enactment of fathers, and have provided for many men, a welcome opportunity to participate in generative fathering.  However, this thesis is the beginning of a demonstration that clearly fathers cannot be conceptualised as mothers, given the impact of the financial provider role through the eyes of both fathers and children.  However, in research on generative fathering it is erroneous to separate childcare that resembles traditional 'mothering' tasks in a way that implies that these tasks do not have to be done for motherless children. All activities that contribute to the psychological, educational, emotional, physical, moral and spiritual development of the child are non-negotiable components of parenting and are therefore 'fatherwork'. 

What may be useful however is that future research should focus on the outcomes for children with fathers who work full- and part-time, and those whose fathers are unemployed.  It is essential that such research also include a sub-sample of children of pre-school and school age.  Similarly, any potential correlations between the working hours and income of both parents and the level of 'fatherwork' would clean the window through to a clearer picture of activities of fathers within a range of households with different levels of time spent at home with the children.

It should also be noted that feminist sociology and psychology have provided views that orientate at both ends of the spectrum. Feminism has both proposed that men are of little value to families as well as emphasising the importance of fathers, (Griswold, 1997).  The good work done by both scholars of psychology and "equity feminism" within sociology as well as men themselves, has created a model of fatherhood that couples their breadwinning role with generative fathering. There has been a focus on the intellectual, moral, psychological, physical and spiritual development of their children and it will be these agents that will undoubtedly shape the future of fathering. If racism and discrimination seem particularly debilitating to the black male psyche, it is because such oppression relentlessly strips black men of their ability to do what men are supposed to do – work, earn money, take care of their woman and children, run their communities, rule their destinies - have power.  The contribution of the growing body of literature on masculinity is not being ignored (e.g. Lewis, 1986; Majors and Billson, 1996; Madhubiti, 1990; Sewell, 1997), but there clearly needs to be more empirical research conducted on the perceptions and development of fathering models that are embedded within parallel models of masculinity.

Palkovitz (1997) suggested that such research has a role to play in exploring the mythology that exists around fathering.  For example it is positive involvement that should be measured as opposed to more involvement, as there is no consistent evidence base to suggest that the more involvement that the father has in the child's care leads to significantly greater benefits for the child.  This small-scale British research however goes some way to initiate closer looks at the issue of the influence of particular fathering styles on the psychological development of the children.  Indeed, Milligan and Dowie (1998) reported the specific needs of the child that can be met by the father. These included safety and protection, comfort, and the feeling of being loved, friendship, a role model, recognition of the child as an individual and that the father should be adaptable and honest. Research in the future should involve a 360° evaluation of father involvement that relies on the views of sons, daughters, the mother and the father, the wider family and teachers which are in turn matched against child outcomes.

Disenchantment with school, leading to attention-seeking and disruptive behaviour, seems to be setting in at an earlier stage.  The most recent statistics has revealed that nine out of ten primary school exclusions are of boys, and boys represent four out of five of secondary school exclusions, (Gilborn and Gipps, 1996). It is quite obvious that if boys are to improve their academic performance they have to be attending school.  As well as the changes to the curriculum offer and to methods of teaching and to pastoral care, parents are also being encouraged to re-examine their role in sex-role development, most notably a movement away from the traditional attitude of 'boys will be boys'. Parents will need to activate an interest in language and in reading at as early a stage as possible. They will need to contribute to the emotional development and empathy of their sons, and to teach them the vocabulary to communicate their feelings, (Downes, 1997).

This series of Studies revealed that increased self-esteem is a consequence of black generative fathering in the British context.


© 2012 Jeune Guishard-Pine. All rights Reserved. Last updated 10-03-2012