BALTIMORE — Nearly half of black fathers living apart from their young children say they played with them at least several times a week; 42 percent say they fed or ate with them that frequently; and 41 percent say they bathed, diapered or helped dress them as often. These rates are on par with, or higher than those of other men who live apart from their kids, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics.
“People think they [black fathers] don’t care, but we know they do,” said Joseph Jones, president of the Center for Urban Families, a Baltimore nonprofit that works to assist and encourage African American fathers. “We see how dads are fighting against the odds to be engaged in the lives of their children.”
According to the study, among fathers who lived with their children, 70 percent of black fathers said they bathed, diapered or dressed their young ones daily. While 60 percent of white and 45 percent of Latino dads said they did the same.
“That stereotype is perpetuated regularly about our black men, but this information proves it’s simply not true,” said Reginald Bridgewater, a construction worker who lives in Essex with his four daughters. “I know I take care of my children and there are a lot of black men who feel the same.”
The new report also revealed that about 35 percent of black fathers who lived with their young children say they read to them daily, compared with 30 percent of white dads and 22 percent of Latino dads.
Further, the study revealed that among fathers living apart from older children, more than half of black fathers say that several times a week or more, they talked to their kids about their day.
“Some men think when they lose a marriage, they lose the relationship with the kids,” Marquette University sociology professor Roberta L. Coles, told the Los Angeles Times. “For black men that doesn’t seem to be as true,” Coles said.
Many studies have found that the more involved dads are, the better off the children are in terms of achievement and education, said lead study author Jo Jones, a statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics’ Reproductive Statistics Branch.
“Most dads think they’re doing a pretty good or great job at being a father, which is good. Men should feel good about their parental involvement,” Jones said.
The researchers surveyed 10,403 fathers, using data from the 2006 to 2010 National Survey of Family Growth, a sample of women and men 15 to 44 years old that looks at different aspects of family.
During the study, 23.5 million men, or 38 percent, were living with one or more children and about 7.5 million, or 12 percent, were living apart. Some of the men fell into both categories.
Researchers surveyed fathers on areas of involvement such as joining kids at mealtime, playing, dressing, bathing, checking homework and talking to children about things that happened during the day.
Among the 12 percent of fathers who live apart from their children, 53 percent gave themselves “good” or “very good” ratings, and 24 percent said they were doing a “bad” or “not a very good” job. About 31 percent of the dads living separately helped with the bathing, diapering or dressing.
For dads of children ages five to 18 years old, 66 percent of those who lived with their kids ate meals with them every day in the previous four weeks compared with 2.9 percent of fathers who didn’t live with their school-aged children.
White and black fathers ate meals more often with their younger children than Hispanic dads, the report found.
“We’re active, we’re a part of our children’s lives and that’s all you really need to know,” said Marvin Boyd, a social worker in Baltimore. “Hopefully, this study is one tool that will help put the myth to rest that we’re deadbeats.”