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Securing fatherhood through kinwork: a comparison of black fathers and 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 from 1992-2005 in South Africa and the U.S., to demonstrate that fathers’ roles as kin workers enable them to meet culturally-defined criteria for responsible fatherhood in two economically fragile contexts. Black men in both societies face enormous challenges including a web of interlocking inequalities that effectively precluded them from accessing employment with good wages, legacies of racism, increasing rates of incarceration and HIV/AIDS that is disproportionately affecting black communities. Using a comparative framework based on kin work and the life course, we examine how kin networks develop strategies to secure father involvement in economically marginalized communities. We conclude with a discussion of the policy implications of our findings.

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Presented in Session 77: Men's involvement in children's lives