Fathering in Kin Networks: A Comparison of Low-Income Families in South Africa and the U.S.

Sangeetha Madhavan, University of Maryland
Kevin Roy, University of Maryland

In this paper, we draw on ethnographic data on men who fathered children in the 1995-2005 period in South Africa and the U.S. to demonstrate that fathers’ roles as “kin workers” enable them to meet the culturally-defined criteria for responsible fathers in two economically fragile contexts. The examination of kin networks shifts the focus from intrahouseold to interhousehold linkages. Black men in both societies face enormous challenges including structural inequalities that have precluded them from accessing stable employment, legacies of racism, and increasing rates of incarceration and HIV/AIDS that are disproportionately affecting black communities. We examine three processes: (1) how are young men socialized by their kin networks into roles as caregivers and providers? (2) how do kin networks negotiate a set of expectations for fathering, even if father roles are ambiguous and changing? and (3)how are kin strategies for father involvement shaped by local and global political economies?

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Presented in Session 164: Intrahousehold Relationships in Non-Western Societies