African American Research Perspectives
Approximately 1.7 million men were incarcerated during 1997, many of whom were fathers. The impact of paternal imprisonment is especially significant for African Americans who are disproportionately represented in the prison system. Although prevailing public opinion considers African American fathers to be uninvolved in the lives of their children, research has found that unmarried black men are more likely to spend time with their children and maintain attachments than unmarried men of other races. This article describes the barriers to paternal involvement for African American men in prison, including legal definitions of family, correctional facility security regulations for visitors, proximity of the prison to the child, relationships with the mother of the child, communication, and psychological factors. Father absence has negative effects for the father as well as his children. Fathers who do not have strong relationships are less likely to succeed after their release from prison than fathers who are involved with their children. Children who do not have relationships with their fathers are at higher risk for disruptive behavior, school drop-out, gang involvement, sexual activity, substance abuse, and crime. Policymakers are urged to reduce barriers to contact and promote relationships between incarcerated fathers and their children. 29 references.
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