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The Best Kept Secret studies the often-overlooked group of single, African American custodial fathers. While the media focuses on the increase of single mothers and the decline in marriage in the black community, Roberta Coles paints a nuanced picture of single black dads. Based on qualitative research, the author looks at the parenting experience of these fathers, who may have become single parents through nonmarital births, divorce, widowhood and adoption. The fathers, ranging in age from 20 to 76, discuss their motivations for taking custody of their children, what roles they enact as parents, what they hope for their children, how they socialize their children in a diverse society, how parenting daughters differs from sons, and what parenting has done for them personally. Coles then recommends policy changes to improve the situations for children and single parents-particularly often-unseen fathers. Filled with dynamic interviews and intriguing case studies, The Best Kept Secret shows that single black custodial fathers do exist and looks at the ways raising children has shaped their lives.
Studies of black fatherhood have focused largely on the absence of or problems with black fathers, overlooking those fathers who, in fact, take sole care of their children. Ironically, then, absent black fathers are present everywhere, in the literature and popular consciousness, while present black fathers are effectively absent, writes Coles. Coles (social & cultural sciences, Marquette Univ.), an expert on families and race, makes a major contribution to the literature on single black custodial fathers. Her study is exploratory and descriptive, offering an examination of the meaning of fatherhood held by the 20 single black custodial fathers she interviewed. Although her findings cannot be generalized (her study does not claim to be representative), her work offers a rich picture of fatherhood embodied by the fathers she interviewed. She discusses themes such as possible differences between raising daughters and sons, getting parenting advice, and talking about racial discrimination with one's children. An important book that gets this best-kept secret out in the open.
Chapter 1: Introducing a New Concept: Black Single Custodial Fathers
Chapter 2: Choosing to Parent on Their Own
Chapter 3: Being All Things to their Children: Parenting Roles and Behavioral Goals
Chapter 4: Fathering Daughters and Sons: The Role of the Child's Gender
Chapter 5: Negotiating Racial Identity and Socialization
Chapter 6: Is Fathering Good for Fathers?
Chapter 7: Single Custodial Fathers and Institutional Policies
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