Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute Research Colloquium Series
In-Person at Freer House. Gated parking is available in Lot 35 off John R St. Gate accepts OneCard and credit card. Enter Freer House through back door.
“I found the power of my presence”: Low-Income & Noncustodial Fathers’ Experiences & Insights from Parenting Young Children through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Presenter: Tova Walsh, PhD, Associate Professor, Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced new challenges for families and communities worldwide and profoundly affected family relationships, roles, and routines. A study by Dr. Tova Walsh aimed to better understand the specific experiences of low-income and noncustodial fathers parenting infants, toddlers, and young children during the pandemic. This group of parents are often marginalized or overlooked in both research and practice. Focus groups were conducted with 38 fathers who lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The majority identified as Black or African American, reported annual household incomes below $50,000, and had children living outside of their household. Focus group discussions explored experiences related to parenting and co-parenting, father-child relationships, and involvement in childcare during the pandemic. Dr. Walsh’s team conducted thematic data analysis, drawing on principles of grounded theory. Three central themes were identified: (1) the pandemic as a time of discovery about oneself as a parent, about one’s child(ren), and about father-child relationship(s), (2) the complexity of sharing parenting across multiple households, (3) the importance of a variety of internal and external parenting resources. The study’s findings demonstrate the depth of fathers’ commitment to and engagement in parenting, underscore the importance of a broad, family-based approach to infant mental health and the inclusion of fathers as key caregivers even when they are not romantically partnered with their children’s mother or living full-time in the same home as their children.