Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Deirdre Oakley

Second Advisor

Dr. Rosalind Chou

Third Advisor

Dr. Ralph E. LaRossa

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Shannon Self-Brown

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Waldo E. Johnson, Jr.


The term “Deadbeat Dad” is often associated with Black fathers, suggesting they have relinquished their parental responsibilities. While research has emerged in recent years examining the social institution of Black fatherhood, many of these studies have yet to interpret their findings through an analytical lens that prioritizes race, gender, and social class status. To fill this gap, I utilize the theories of systemic racism and controlling images to explore how race, gender, and class-based oppression affects the fatherhood experiences of low-income, Black men. Further, I draw on these theories to explore how low-income, Black fathers challenge the credibility of the “Deadbeat Dad” narrative. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 23 low-income, Black fathers residing throughout metropolitan Atlanta to accomplish these aims. Findings reveal that systemic racism and controlling images create significant barriers for the fathers, particularly in terms of providing financial support for their children. Findings also indicate that the fathers viewed “being there” for their children as the most essential aspect of parenthood and relied on an assortment of parenting practices to improve the quality of their relationship with their offspring. Also, findings highlight how fathers relied on their religious and spiritual values to contend with the vexing institutional roadblocks they continually face. I conclude my dissertation by making several policy recommendations intended to enhance paternal engagement, strengthen the social institution of Black fatherhood, and combat the stereotypical image of the “Deadbeat” Black father.

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