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African-American Father Perspectives on Academic Socialization and School Readiness

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Despite notable exceptions, the voices of African-American fathers are virtually absent from the discourse about academic socialization. This inattention to African-American fathers' perspectives and behaviors is likely due, in part, to estimates that up to 66% of African-American children live with unmarried mothers. Yet, a growing body of literature suggests that assumptions of father non-involvement or conflicted involvement do not reflect the realities of all African-American families. African-American fathers can and do play significant roles in the academic lives of their children. The purpose of this study is to describe African-American fathers' beliefs about the meanings school readiness and academic socialization for their children.
We conducted in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews with 30 African-American fathers of children in 4k through 12 education who lived in a medium-sized mid-western city. Fathers ranged in age from 29 to 61 years (mean = 41.97, range = 29 - 61 years) and had an average of 3.31 children (sd = 1.23). Twelve of the fathers were married or partnered; 18 were single. The participants were educationally diverse, including 1 participant without a High School diploma or equivalent, 13 with high school diplomas or equivalents, 6 with some college or vocational training, 5 with undergraduate degrees, and 5 with graduate or professional degrees.
Preliminary analysis revealed three major themes: (1) intellectual/socioemotional readiness, alluding to academic skills, such as knowing letters and numbers, literacy, and social skills, (2) instrumental/tangible readiness, including having necessary school supplies such as clothing, books, and supplies, and (3) philosophical/spiritual/emotional readiness, including having a secure connection to family and strong senses of individual and racial identity. These themes occurred relatively consistently across fathers, regardless of their own educational attainment.
The knowledge that this study contributes is critical to supporting African-American families' efforts to promoting school readiness because it provides insight into what African-American fathers value related to their children's education. In addition, this research may act as the basis for future quantitative/intervention research that may promote school readiness specifically for African-American families.

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