“Don’t Wait for It to Rain to Buy an Umbrella: ” The Transmission of Values From African American Fathers to Sons

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Abstract

African American fathers are increasingly documented as being involved with their children and engaging in roles that include child socialization. Yet, we have limited knowledge about the values African American fathers seek to instill in their children or the mechanism through which they transmit these values. Therefore, our objective was to explore, from African American fathers’ perspectives, the values they seek to instill within their sons. Participants included 30 self-identified, African American, biological fathers of preadolescent sons at broad risk for developing aggressive behaviors, depressive symptoms, or both. The fathers participated in semistructured, qualitative interviews based on a topic guide that was developed a priori. Informed by grounded theory analysis methods, emergent themes were systematically identified by the research team. Five themes and 4 subthemes emerged from the data. The first 4 themes reflected values fathers aimed to instill in their sons: cultural messages (subthemes: cultural pride, managing racism), education (subthemes: educational attainment, social intelligence, and exposure), respect, and responsibility. The fifth theme, modeling, represented a mechanism through which fathers taught these important values. The findings provide invaluable insight, from the perspectives of fathers, into the cultural and gendered contexts that shape the values African American fathers seek to instill in their sons. An increased understanding of what is most important to fathers may be instrumental in the engagement and retention of African American fathers in prevention programs. Implications for prevention programs and future research are discussed.

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