Despite the increase in the number of children born to unwed White mothers, social policies and attitudes about female-headed households usually depict the family structure as a Black issue. Public discourse continues to view the matriarchal family as abnormal and the cause of many problems in the Black community, such as criminal behavior and drug abuse. Black men are considered to be unsuitable role models and unable to lead their families, a belief that White Americans have maintained since the days of slavery. However, these criticisms of Black fathers distract attention from the social situations that interfere with their ability to be involved in the lives of their children, including the social acceptability of single motherhood, unemployment, incarceration, and chronic poverty. The public image of Black fatherless families is manifested in social welfare policies that emphasize the importance of marriage to child well being. Society endorses public benefits for widows and children through Social Security, but stigmatizes female-headed families who receive other forms of assistance, such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The distinction is dependent on the woman's relationship to the father of her children- a gendered and racialized policy. Furthermore, social research tends to focus on the marital status of the parents, rather than the fathers' involvement with their children or the additional forms of support available to single mother in the Black community. The definitions of parenting formed for White families do not appear to apply to Black families. Black fathers have a distinctive style of parenting that sometimes includes greater interaction with children than that provided by White married fathers. Policies formed in the context of the White experience, including child support enforcement, will not be effective with Black families. 47 notes.
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