Original Paper

Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 253-264

First online:

A Big Brother: New Findings on How Low-Income Fathers Define Responsible Fatherhood

  • Monika J. U. MyersAffiliated withDepartment of Criminology, Sociology, and Geography, Arkansas State University Email author 

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I interviewed 57 low-income fathers about how they define responsible fatherhood. Unlike findings from previous research, their definition did not include financial provision or daily caregiving. Instead, their definition included six dimensions, some of which resemble a “Big Brother”: spending time in non-caregiving activities; avoiding harm by voluntarily distancing from the child when it is in the child’s best interest; acknowledging paternity in non-legal forums; spending money on gifts, joint activities, and special needs; monitoring the child’s home for trouble; and minimizing absences in the child’s life. Because these fathers do not emphasize traditional breadwinning or primary caregiving, their responsible fathering beliefs and behavior may be unappreciated by academics, practitioners, and policy makers.


Fatherhood Fragile families Low-income father Responsible fatherhood