My Baby's Father: Unmarried Parents and Paternal Responsibility

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9780801488061: My Baby's Father: Unmarried Parents and Paternal Responsibility

About one-third of births in the United States occur to unmarried parents. Evidence suggests that children who grow up in families headed by single parents have worse socioeconomic outcomes than those raised by married parents. "Fatherlessness" has become a byword in public debate and policymaking, yet fundamental questions about unmarried parents and their ideas of paternal responsibility remain unanswered.In My Baby's Father, Maureen R. Waller draws on interviews with unmarried parents whose children receive welfare to address several basic, vital questions: How do low-income mothers and fathers define the father's obligation to his children and explain irresponsible behavior among fathers? How do they negotiate private arrangements of paternal acknowledgment and support? And how do these informal practices interact with mandatory welfare and child-support regulations?The majority of research on low-income families focuses on single mothers. Waller's book also gives a voice to the fathers, historically either excluded from academic and policy discussions or simply characterized as "deadbeat dads" with no sense of paternal responsibility. By documenting the experiences of African-American and white parents simultaneously, Waller illustrates the extent to which beliefs and practices are likely to cut across racial lines. She also shifts the focus from teenagers to adults, who constitute the largest group of unmarried parents.My Baby's Father provides honest glimpses into the lives of unmarried parents. In addition, it offers specific recommendations for social policies that are both better suited to unmarried parents' socioeconomic situations and more responsive to the practices of responsible fatherhood in low-income families.

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"Waller's focus on low-income unmarried fathers and mothers offers a fascinating glimpse into their inner world. . . .Waller provides graphic evidence that it is job training, adequate child care, drug treatment programs when needed, and employment, not punitive policies or marriage legislation, that will enhance the economic support, paternal relationships, and co-parenting of poor children."―Edythe M. Krampe, California State University Fullerton, Journal of Marriage and Family

"Waller's work is informative, particularly for policymakers in the area of public assistance and support enforcement. The blame placed on the fathers is not helpful to the mothers, to society, to the children, and to the fathers themselves. if the goal of public policy for child support is to ensure the financial stability of children, great changes need to take place. Expectations of parents need to be practical and in tandem with the parents' views of what is helpful and realistic. Waller's insights and recommendations, which are outlined at the end of the book, address ways in which this could be accomplished."―Dina M. Carbonell, Bridgewater State College, Journal of Progressive Human Services, vol. 15, no. 2

"My Baby's Father features colorful and interesting data on family commitments, role definitions, and gendered parenting patterns. In a readable yet theoretically informed fashion, Maureen R. Waller contributes to academic and policy discussions about parental responsibilities."―Theodore Cohen, Ohio Wesleyan University

"In providing evidence about fathers' behaviors and motivations, Maureen R. Waller is at the leading edge of work on fathers and families. My Baby's Father is well written, provocative, and convincing."―Elizabeth Peters, Cornell University

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