Date of Conferral







Elizabeth Clark


Male survivors of abuse who become fathers themselves face challenges different from female survivors, such as conceptualizing their roles as providers and heads of households after the traumatic and often belittling experiences of abuse. However, very few researchers have studied the connection between child abuse and fatherhood, and none specific to young African American fathers. An interpretative phenomenological approach enabled exploration of how African American fathers who were abused as children, conceptualized and perceived their own experiences with fatherhood. The theoretical framework for this study was identity theory, which indicates that how people conceptualize a social role influences their actions in that role. Research questions centered on how young African American fathers, who were abused as children, conceptualized fatherhood and carried out their roles as fathers. Data collected from 11 young African American fathers came through in-depth, semistructured interviews. Key findings showed participants conceptualized fatherhood as being present for, providing for, and protecting their children. These fathers worked to break the cycle of abuse they had experienced and to show support for their children. Implications to promote social change include use of study findings to develop parenting programs that address childhood trauma. Other benefits may come from developing groups for father with children in the foster care system, helping these men to understand why they parent the way they do and to break the destructive cycle of parenting they had experienced. Findings may also contribute to the establishment of fatherhood programs that match fathers with supportive role models who help in navigating the father role.