Date of Conferral





Human Services


Dr. Tracey Phillips


Past researchers have reported that father absence and low engagement affects 24 million children in the United States. African American fathers make up the largest group with low involvement. Fatherhood programs support men in their roles, yet little is known about why this group still exhibits low engagement. Using the family systems theory as a foundation, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of African American fathers who participated in fatherhood programs and their engagement after these programs. This study used purposeful sampling and semi-structured interviews to collect information from 9 African American men aged 18-45 from Philadelphia, PA who participated in fatherhood programs and self-identified as uninvolved. The research question focused on how the lived experiences of noncustodial African American fathers who participated in fatherhood programs influenced their involvement and engagement in their children's lives. Nine audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and coded for themes using a classification system based on key terms and repetitive words. Fathers while part of the family system were found to exhibit low accountability and blaming behavior, resulting in continued low involvement. Future research should include a quantitative or mixed methods study to consider distinct variables such as stated intent, actual behavior, blame, and personal accountability, and influence on involvement. This study contributes to positive social change by informing program modules with interventions for fathers by proposing a shift from lecture models to peer support models considering accountability, support, and the coparenting relationship.