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Better Than My Father: An Exploration of the Influence of Absent Fatherhood on the Minds and Lives of Disadvantaged Black Men


    My research examines the voids in the contemporary academic and policy characterization of absentee fatherhood and the consequences this has had for policy conceptualization and interventions addressing this issue. To fill these voids this study uses the narratives and life histories, as told by low-income black men who grew up with absent fathers. For this qualitative research I will be conducting face-to-face phenomenological interviews with adult low-income black male residents, of Metro-Detroit and Ypsilanti.

Interviewing began in April and is expected to be completed during the Fall. Upon completion, this dissertation broadly seeks to produce a more in-depth understanding of what exactly absence is and how it occurs. Additionally, this work will attempt to fill gaps in our understanding of how experiencing an absent father as a child, influences one’s intentions and behaviors as adults.


    This project is ideal for students seeking to gain experience in qualitative research. Specifically, it will provide opportunities to learn the general research processes such as literature review, data collection and data analysis. Topically, this project will be valuable for those interested in black men, race, family, fatherhood, inequality and meaning making.

Available tasks for SURO students will be 1-3 of the following:

  • Coding & Analysis: Students will be responsible for reading through interview transcripts and conducting a series of broad and specific-level coding. This task will be guided by a template that I have already created. After coding, students will be tasked with analyzing findings from the coding. Specifically, students will be responsible for providing memos discussing their results from the coding and its relevance to the project objectives. This exercise will be both an individual(memos) and group (team meetings) task.

  • Recruitment and other minor project management tasks: It is very likely that there will be opportunities to assist in the recruitment of participants. Specifically, tasks may include accompanying me to recruitment sites and assisting with follow-up communications with respondents. Additionally, it is possible that there may be opportunities to accompany me—solely for observation—to interviews with respondents. These tasks require that student’s complete the University’s online Program for Education & Evaluation in Responsible Research and Scholarship (PEERRS).

  • Literature Review: Students will assist in locating up-to-date literature relevant to this project. This will include maintaining a spreadsheet—template is provided—that stores the article information (i.e. title, year, abstract) as well as a link to the reading if available.

Supervising faculty member: Alford Young, Jr.

Average Hours of Work Per Week:

  • Reading/Coding/Analysis/Memo Writing

    • 5-11 hours of work per week

  • Weekly Check-in

    • 1 hour a week

  • Total

    • 6-12

Range of credit hours: 2-4

Number of Positions: 2

Contact info:

Matthew Alemu,, 734-355-1814