According to the AlabamaFamily Alliance, the United States has the highest rate of father absentfamilies (Hendricks, et al.
, 2005). Adolescents who areconsidered “disadvantaged” have a higher likelihood to grow up in a household withouta father due to low marriage rates and higher fertility rates. In 2012approximately 2.5% of children were being raised with mothers and grandmothersas heads of the household opposed to fathers (Cartwright & C., 2012). In general fathers notin the same household as their children are less likely to provide economicstability, parental guidance, and other resources that is linked to healthy childdevelopment (Booth, King, & Scott, 2010). A parent not living in the same household as thechild does not necessarily make them absent.
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‘Father absence’ is often not definedclearly, but in general it refers to a father voluntarily not being active in achild’s life, a father who has passed away, or a father who was lost from othercircumstances. Children living without their biological fathers is not anunusual situation, and it has actually increased in the years. Around 50% ofchildren live without their biological father at some point in their childhood(Booth, King, & Scott, 2010). Generally when there is no father there isless protection, financial support, and emotional support that ultimatelycontributes to a child’s identity and character (Hendricks, et al., 2005).
Literaturesuggests a correlation between father absence and difficulties that childrenexperience, and some literature suggests that it is not father absence butrather other social factors (i.e. poverty, lack of resources, socioeconomic status) (East, Jackson, & O’Brien, 2007). As previously mentioned, there are other factors that one can takeinto consideration, for example, the young woman decided to succumb to peerpressure and resort to deviant behavior although both parents were actively involvedin her life. Another situation to take into account is the rebellious nature ofchildren while in the adolescent stage of their lives. This rebellious behavioris common for both single parent and dual parent households however, dualparents are typically able to employ strategic means and checks and balances tocurtail this behavior.
When a child does not live with theirfather it is harder for them to create a strong bond with their own childrenand monitor them. Previous research suggests that children with nonresidentfathers have a higher risk of poor school performance, substance abuse,depression, and low self-esteem. Other sources of literature have found thatthose adolescents who reported being close to fathers not in the same householdhave higher levels of self-esteem and less symptoms of depression than thosewho live with their fathers, but not are close to them (Booth, King, & Scott, 2010).The same source reports that children who live with their biological father,but are not close to them, have better grades and less signs of drug andalcohol use than adolescents with a nonresident father who isn’t close (Booth, King, & Scott, 2010). Overall those whoare close to their biological fathers living in the same household have the bestresults (Booth, King, & Scott, 2010). This study showsthat the quality of relationships is very important when analyzing the effectof ‘absent fathers’ on their children. Also, research implies that father absent homes are more likely toexperience “poverty, teen pregnancy, poor academic performance, and psychiatricproblems (Hendricks, et al.
, 2005, p. 125).” Literature has shown that fatherabsence affects both male and female children, and their lifestyle choiceswhich can last for a lifetime. Many women with no father seem to desire maleattention and affection as a way to cope with not receiving any from theirfathers. Often times when a child does not have access or a type ofrelationship with their biological father, some children find father-likefigures in cousins, uncles, teachers, etc. Forming new relationships.
Even ifthese newly formed relationships are loving and nurturing, they do not fix thevoid that is there because of abandonment, loss, and grief that a childexperiences from a parent’s absence (East, Jackson, & O’Brien, 2007). Craving this maleattention often led to low self-esteem and bad decisions. Children who areraised without their biological father in the household also tend to engage insexual intercourse at an earlier age and have higher rates of pregnancy thanthose with their father in the household (Brooks-Gunn, et al., 2009). In 2007 a study was conductedby Leah East, Debra Jackson, and Louise O’Brien in which they captured theexperiences of nine women (22-46 years old) who grew up without a father. Thisspecific study defined father absence as “…a father being absent from thefamily home because of parental relationship breakdown (East, Jackson, &O’Brien, 2007, p. 15).
” Participants described how growing up without theirfathers hurt them deeply and affected the relationship they had with theirfathers; seeing them as strangers rather than fathers. The participants alsoexplained how their relationships with men have also been impacted as a resultof father absence including: “having distrust in men; fear of abandonment;having negative feelings toward men; and not knowing or understanding therelationship dynamics between men and women (East, Jackson, & O’Brien,2007, p. 16)”. (Hendricks, et al., 2005) Another study was done to seethe influence of father absence on self-esteem and sexual activity. The sampleconsisted of adolescents from 10 schools in a rural southern community.Questionnaires were used as a method of collecting data.
Results found thatthose children with no father in the home were more likely to engage in sexualbehavior. Teenageyears are a crucial time for a child’s development mentally, physically, andemotional. Criminal activity tends to start in the early teen years and rise inlate teens. A study was done in which researchers looked at how a father beingabsent during a child’s adolescence can impact “a male youths incarcerationrisks to see how important it was relative to myriad other difficultiesencountered by populations at risk of incarceration” (Harper & McLanahan, 2004). In the black community theamount of absent fathers is abundant and is continuously increasing.
AfricanAmerican children under the age of 18 years old are not very likely to live ina household with both married parents (Hendricks, et al., 2005). The percentage ofAfrican American children who do not live with their fathers has grown from 33%(1995) to 39% (2002) (Hendricks, et al., 2005).
Only about 50% ofdivorced fathers are sure to see their children, and this percentage is even lessfor those fathers who never married (Cartwright & C., 2012). About 69% of blackchildren in kindergarten to twelfth grade live in homes without apresent-father (Cartwright & C., 2012). Until recent years the father’srole in a child’s development was thought of as less important than the mothers (Hendricks, et al.
, 2005).More research is needed in an effort to better understandhow a father’s presence or absence can influence child development. A father is a core source of social supportfor adolescents. There is a copious amountof research about how the lack of a father’s presence correlates to delinquencyin males, and how the absence can affect a young woman’s self-esteem and sexualbehavior. Previous literature also states that minorities tend to experiencefather absence more often, but many of these studies do not focus on minoritygroups. “The majority of prisoners, juvenile detentioninmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, andrapists come from fatherless homes, and the effects of growing up in absentfather homes can last for a lifetime (Cartwright & C., 2012, p.
30).” The present study willexamine the effects that father absence has on the incarceration of youngAfrican-American women. Literature suggest that experiencing father absence canstrongly impact a child’s life choices and path. This is why it is imperative thatthe line of questioning delves deeper and not just surface level questions asthe goal is to try to get a better understanding of impact that the absenteefather has on the psychological and emotional growth of young women. The main researchhypothesis of this study is that father absence increases the likelihood ofincarceration for African-American women. There are other possible factors infather-absent households to test its impact on the chance of incarceration,such as income, parenting styles, and the age/time when the father becameabsent. MethodParticipants The present study will consistof sample size of 1,000 (n=1,000) African-American young ladies that arecurrently incarcerated in either a juvenile correctional facility orjail/prison.
These young women will be between the ages of 14-to 22-year olds. Inan effort to focus on a specific ethnic group, participants will be chosen basedon the race that they identified with when they were first were admitted intothe institution and put into the system. The focus of this particular studywill be African-American women, so the participant would have to identify themselvesas such. Participants will be from nine different locations in the U.S. Thenine locations are as follows: 1.
Women’s Central Jail, 2. Ventura YouthCorrectional Facility, 3. Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, 4. LindaWoodman State Jail, 5. Christina Melton Crain Unit, 6. Florida Department of JuvenileJustice, 7. Chillicothe Industrial Home for Girls, 8.
Georgia Department ofJuvenile Justice, and 9. Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women. Foragreeing to be a part of the study participants will receive a monetaryallocation of $10.00 each.Materials Data for this study will becollected through both surveys and interviews. All participants will take thesurvey which will consist of 15 questions, both open and close-ended. Theclose-ended questions will be answered on a number scale, ranging from 1(beingthe lowest) to 5 (being the highest). A sampling of questions will be asfollows: “How is your current relationship with your biological father?”, “Howenjoyable and stable was your childhood?”.
Open-ended questions will includequestions like, “In a few sentences explain your relationship with your fatherwhen you were a child,” “Would you consider your biological father absent? Ifso, briefly explain your reasoning,” “Do you blame your biological father forwhere you are today?”Measures The study will analyze theeffect of father absence on the risks of incarceration in African-Americanwomen. For this study ‘absent fathers’ will be defined in a couple of ways.Firstly, a father will be considered absent if the biological father has noform of emotional relationship with their daughter. Secondly, if the biologicalfather has not lived in the same household with the child for eight years ormore then he will be deemed absent. Thirdly, if the biological father passedaway or was lost due to other circumstances while the woman was 0- to 18-yearsold. Lastly, an absent father is a biological father who has voluntarilydecided to not keep in contact with the young woman. Procedures The nine institutions that thewomen are located will be contacted in order to identify which women areinterested in being a part of the study. A consent form will then be given toeach participant in which they must sign agreeing to be a participant.
Theconsent form will include the purpose of the study and assure the women thattheir identities will be kept anonymous throughout the duration of theresearch. After receiving consent forms the surveys will be mailed to eachinstitution, and the institution will distribute them accordingly. Participantswill be broken up into smaller groups of 10 and supervised when filling out thesurvey to ensure that their responses are not influenced by their peers, andthat the responses are genuine.Based off the responses on the survey some of the participantswill be interviewed in order to obtain a deeper understanding of their livedexperiences. Participants who responded on the survey saying that they considertheir biological father absent, and in some way blames them for their currentstatus will be interviewed. Interviews will be brief and occur on a one-on-onebasis.
The interview will consists of questions like: “Were you raised by asingle mother? If so please go more into detail about it,” “What kind ofparenting style would you say the parent in the household used–authoritative,authoritarian, or permissive? Explain your reasoning.” “Do you think you missedout on anything by not having your biological father in the household?” and”When growing up did you have a father-like figure, such as an older brother,cousin, uncle, etc.?”.
After gathering the information from the surveys and interviews,the results and answers will be compared– those who had a present father vs.those who had an absent father. All the participants are women who are African –American and incarcerated, so they share common factors. Comparing the resultswill give a better understanding of how father absence has an effect on theincarceration of young African-American women.