African-American men have some of the highest rates of substance misuse and depression when compared to other races and ethnicities. They also experience the poorest physical health and highest premature mortality rates among minority cultures living in the United States. This group is more likely, statistically, to have less financial stability and live in communities with more socioeconomic challenges than men of other races. It is not surprising, then, that rates of depression and substance abuse are high among these men. The relationships they have with their children may help protect them from these issues, however.
According to results of a recent study conducted by Cleopatra Howard Caldwell of the University of Michigan, African-American men who spend time with their children have lower rates of depression and substance use than those who do not have relationships with their children. After evaluating the mental health and behaviors of 332 African-American fathers who did not reside with their children, Caldwell found that those who were involved in their children’s lives had fewer symptoms of depression and drank less often than nonresident fathers who were estranged from their children. Additionally, Caldwell found that men who had strong masculine traits were less depressed than those without.
Caldwell also discovered that fathers who maintained cordial relationships with the mothers of their children were at decreased risk for negative mental health outcomes. The findings of this study provide evidence that actively engaging in the role of fatherhood can have a significantly positive effect for nonresident African-American fathers, who are otherwise at increased risk for adverse physical and psychological health. “Identifying ways to better connect nonresident African-American fathers with their children may be a promising direction for future efforts focused on preventing depression or reducing drinking among these fathers,” Caldwell.
Caldwell, C. H., Antonakos, C. L., Tsuchiya, K., Assari, S., De Loney, E. H. (2012). Masculinity as a moderator of discrimination and parenting on depressive symptoms and drinking behaviors among nonresident African-American fathers. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029105
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