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"I Wanted to Return the Favor": The Experiences and Perspectives of Black Social Fathers


Journal of Black Studies

Published online on


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 Black social fathers to understand their reasons for assuming fatherly roles, their impacts on the children, how their non-biological father status affects their parenting experiences, their treatment of their biological children compared with their non-biological children, and how the men are affected by the experience of social fathering. Coding revealed several dimensions of the social father experience related to reasons for becoming involved in non-biological children’s lives (the package deal concept, the need for a male role model, passing on a blessing, and biological father inadequacy), influences on social fathers’ lives (responsibility and self-conscious role modeling), social fathers’ influences on children’s lives (providing love and caring, emphasizing education, and providing discipline), challenges due to social father status (anxiety due to the biological father and limited/questioned authority), and differential treatment of biological and non-biological children (discipline and severity of physicality and comfort with intimacy).