Nonresident social fathering in African American single-mother families


Cross, Christina J. & Zhang, Xing (2022). Nonresident social fathering in African American single-mother families. Journal of Marriage and Family.


Objective This study examined the prevalence of nonresident social fathering among African American youth from single-mother families and their reports of subjective closeness, frequency of contact, and financial support from social fathers during young adulthood. Background Research on African American families has overwhelmingly focused on single motherhood and the mother–child dyad. The perceived deficits of single-mother families are emphasized, while their assets frequently go unnoticed. One potential resource available to offspring in these families are nonresident social fathers (men who act as fathers to children). Method Using Add Health (n = 728), we document the share of youth who had a nonresident social father serve as their main father figure and examine key indicators of their long-term relationships with these men: closeness, contact, and receipt of financial support during young adulthood. We also consider whether relationships with social fathers differ by type (stepfather versus male relative) and from those with biological fathers. Results Twenty-five percent of respondents identified a nonresident social father as their main father figure; 44% indicated a nonresident biological father. Nearly 70% of participants reported strong feelings of closeness and regular contact with social fathers. Over 40% received financial assistance. Respondents were more likely to report feeling closer to a social than a biological father; there were no other differences by father figure type. Conclusion Most African American young adults from single-mother families have close and consistent ties with a nonresident father figure. While underexplored, their sustained engagement with these men may have positive implications for their downstream outcomes.



child wellbeing

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Marriage and Family


Cross, Christina J.
Zhang, Xing

Year Published




Reference ID