Jay Fagan
Jay Fagan

Jay Fagan, professor emeritus in the School of Social Work, served as an expert on a June U.S. Congressional policy briefing titled “Reclaiming the Fatherhood Narrative for Black Men,” hosted by Florida Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, chair of the Caucus on the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys. Fagan spoke alongside experts on family law and psychoeducational studies, as well as representatives of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and parenting influencers.

Fagan was invited to discuss his recent paper, “The Myth of Low-Income Black Fathers’ Absence From the Lives of Adolescents,” which was published in the Journal of Family Issues in January. Using a longitudinal Princeton University study collecting data on children in the U.S., Fagan compared low-income children’s reports of relationships and interactions with their fathers across different racial groups. His research found that Black fathers are no less involved with their children than fathers from other racial groups, a finding that he hopes will help combat harmful stereotypes about Black fathers.

“There’s a stereotype that Black men are not involved with their children, and that stereotype is very destructive and very difficult for Black men to cope with,” Fagan notes. “Many of them are involved with their children, and yet they are constantly encountering images in the media that depict them as 'dead-beat dads.' The research so far has not borne that out.”

Fagan has studied the role fathers play in child development for more than three decades. He decided to specialize in fatherhood studies shortly after earning his PhD from Columbia University’s School of Social Work, when he was asked to participate in a government-funded discovery program designed to better include fathers in their young children’s lives.

“I was amazed by how important the work was,” he recalls. “These men had been incarcerated, unemployed, or otherwise not living with their children, and the program offered them the opportunity to do something useful and get more involved with their children. I saw a lot of value in what they were doing.”

Since then, Fagan has served as the former co-director of the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network, funded by the Administration for Children and Families, as well as the founding editor of the journal Fathering. Over the course of his career, Fagan has published more than 90 research papers on at-risk fathers, co-parenting in families in which mothers and fathers do not live together, family structure effects on young children, parent education and co-parenting interventions for fathers, fathers and early childhood programs, fathering in the context of family processes, and the relationship between childcare and work-family balance among low-income women.