Drinking and Depression Among African-American Fathers

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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  • Leo


    August 30th, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    While socioeconomic factors can cause a major stumbling block to a person’s development and can push a person towards depression and substance abuse,familial problems can only add to the problem.There is just so much going through a person’s mind when there is no socioeconomic standing and there are problems in family.The reasons are amplified in such cases and so are the resulting problems.

  • Ernest


    August 31st, 2012 at 3:54 AM

    There is something here that just makes me so sad, because no matter how we try, black men can’t seem to break free of this mold that has cast us as absent and often derelict fathers. I know that we for the most part have made the choices that have led us to this point in life, and for that I blame no one. But I do blame black society as a whole for accepting that this is the norm and that it is unreasonable to try to change this pattern of behavior. And what does this say to our own children? That this is ok and then they end up repeating the same past mistakes and behavior within their own families. It is a sad truism that nothing seems to change for the better for many of these young people, and it makes you wonder how we as a whole will ever find a way to get ahead in life and break this chain from continuing to occur.

  • terra


    August 31st, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    No matter how much money you do or do not have, or the ills that you think has been forced on you by society, that’s no excuse to not be a father who stands up for and takes care of his kids. Momma won’t let you see the kids? How about going to court and fighting for them? Or better yet, how about not get involved in the first place with someone who is so petty and would hold your kids against you like that. See, I know there is enough blame to go around, but usually most of the blame falls on the person looking back at you in the mirror. It’s just that most of us are too afraid to admit that we are usually the root cause of the problem. It’s easier to go around blaming someone else.



    August 31st, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    No its not the Black society that’s to blame,friend.It all comes down to an individual and nobody else is to blame.There are enough successful and failed people in all races and communities,no exception.It so happens that more Black people end up being in this due to poor economic and social conditions,something that cannot and will not change with a magic wand.

  • JocelynS


    August 31st, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    It must be hard living in a situation where you are attacked for not seeing your children, but living where you try to see them but the other parent will not let you.
    You want to seek custody and visitation, but what rights do you really have because you know that unless the mom does something foolish then the courts are naturally going to side with he.
    And who has the money to fight this because you can barely make the rent, much less hire a lawyer.
    This has to be discouraging and of course could lead a lot of men in these shoes to feeling worthless and depressed. Their children are forced to live in a way where they are not allowed to get to know their father and their father is not allowed to ever get to know them either.

  • rudy k

    rudy k

    August 31st, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    we can take something positive from this-even when conditions are bad and there is vulnerability to depression connection with children and a healthy family unit can help us stave off the challenges that are brought about by socioeconomic challenges!is that not a wonderful thing to have?

  • Laney


    September 1st, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    If this is so prevalent then perhaps many of the women realize that they have made a mistake and have actually gotten involved with a man who already has a problem with drinking and depression and they don’t wish to have their child exposed to this. I would at least hope that this is how the rationale of their thinking goes because it is awfully cruel to use you child as a pawn against one another.

  • andre e

    andre e

    September 2nd, 2012 at 4:56 AM

    My old man was a loser before my mom got pregnant and just because he made a child that didn’t change anything. I am thankful my mom kept me away from him or I might have ended up a dead beat just like him of he had been aroundme more. Instead I have been blessed with wonderfully strong female role models and for me that was always more than enough. He didn’t love me enough to stop drinking and turn his life around, so I accepted that and moved on.

  • Tiannah


    September 3rd, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Have you seen many of the men in the African American community lately? There are just as many who are not like this as there are who are. Our men have come a very long way and we are, as a whole, trying to improve those numbers and develop the steady and loving families that so many of our young people have missed out on over the years due to a myriad of factoors. Yes there are families who still struggle with the depression, the alcohol abuse, and the drugs, but there are more who don’t. Many have overcome the oppresson of the past and are really moving forward to create great homes and upbringing for their children.

  • clarence Jones

    clarence Jones

    September 4th, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    As a fatherhood practitioner, I thank the authors and all those who commented on this article. I have a radio program on KMOJ FM in Minneapolis that discusses issues of black fathers and families, and would like to have more resources to share this kind of information with the community..

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