Missing: Black Fathers in the Lives of their Children (Prelude to a Life of Depression)

As an African-American Psychiatrist, I am disturbed by the number of African-American children who have absolutely no relationship with their father. What is even more startling is the number of mothers in absentia.  Lack of primary parental relationships is certainly a set-up for a life full of depression and woes.  In many African-American communities, there are a growing number of grandmothers who have the primary task of raising their grandchildren. It is a sad realization that they are charged with the primary responsibility of raising their young grandsons and granddaughters, but the fact that many of them are far past their child rearing season makes the problem even more disheartning. Their “golden years” are being stolen and they are often completely out of the loop of the things that are currently “raising our children”.  The “boob tube” has been replaced by YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the like.  It is highly unlikely that technology is grandma’s bag, so Jimmy is acting a fool on the internet in almost total anonymity. It takes a lot of patience to raise small children and even more strength to manage a hormone driven teenager. 

Observation: Generation X seems to be the main culprit in the current phenomena of “fathers in absentia.”  

When you ask many of the grandparents,” Why are you still here?” Their answer usually reflects a fear of the less friendly alternative- foster care. It is no secret that foster care can be a double-edged sword. (i.e. physical, sexual and emotional abuse in many cases.)  Many of the graduates from foster homes later present in mental health with depression and relationships issues.  This is because of some of the activities that occurred, while these children were in some foster homes, are yet unmentionable.  Please know that I am not making a judgment call on all Foster Homes, but many of them are really awful. Just ask any of your personal friends about their foster home experiences. Better yet, rent the movie Antwon Fisher and then let’s talk.

For all intended purposes, and since this is Father’s Day’s month, I am going to focus my brief discussion on the Missing Fathers. First let’s put three observations on the table:

  1. It is more likely for an African-American male child to go to jail by age 18, than complete high school.(66%)
  2. The overall graduation rate for African-American males in America is about 42%.
  3. African-Americans make-up 13.4 % of the general population, but 50% of the male population in America’s Jails.
  4. African-American juvenile age males make-up 40% of the total juvenile justice population.

Where are our fathers? Where is the strength and wisdom that is needed to transition our communities back into the safe havens they once where? Can we halt these growing and starling statistics? Or should we just throw our hands up in despair and give-up?

It is becoming increasingly more important for the male black role –model to be in place. Our children are not surviving and are swiftly becoming the casualties of racism and unemployment. Where are our fathers, in jail or plunged into oblivion? This question sounds rhetorical but we (THE BLACK RACE) are a moving target for continued failure and no one seemingly has any answers, just yet…..


Are you willing to be a surrogate father and help us in the battle against oppression, racism and poverty? First check-out your own mental status and then let us know your answer.


Do you think that the absence of a father, while growing-up, can lead to adult depression? Let me hear your views…

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