Viewing Low-Income Fathers' Ties to Families through a Cultural Lens: Insights for Research and Policy
Policy makers have become increasingly interested in addressing the cultural dimensions of child support, “responsible fatherhood,” and marriage in poor communities. However, policy studies have primarily focused on identifying economic determinants of these issues, with a substantial amount of variation in their statistical models left unexplained. This article draws on in-depth interviews the author conducted with disadvantaged mothers and fathers to illustrate how a systematic investigation into the meaning of low-income men's ties to families may fill in or provide alternative explanations for some important questions related to paternal involvement. In particular, it suggests that analyzing fathers' relationships through a cultural lens may not only reveal new information about the meaning of their emotional involvement, informal support, care of children, and conflicts with mothers which future policy studies should consider but may also inform policy initiatives by reducing the risk that they will be misdirected or have unintended consequences for poor families.