Abstract: He's My Umbrella Against All: Black Fathers As Protective Mechanisms to a Daughter's Sexual Behaviors and Decisions during Adolescence (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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He's My Umbrella Against All: Black Fathers As Protective Mechanisms to a Daughter's Sexual Behaviors and Decisions during Adolescence

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Marquitta Dorsey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL

Too little is known about the assets of Black father involvement in the lives of their daughters. Although father involvement literature emphasizes the value of a father’s engagement, responsibility and accessibility to a child’s development (Lamb et al., 1985; Pleck, 2012), how these measures matter differently with Black daughters warrants a richer investigation, particularly as it relates to sexual behaviors and outcomes during adolescence. Despite recent declines in the overall United States teen birth rates, racial disparities among girls ages 15-19 have persisted and continue to go unexplained, especially for Black females who represented the smallest decline in 2018, with 27 out of 1000 births compared to the national rate of 17 out of 1000 births (Martin et al., 2019). In light of teen birth disparities and a particular urgency posed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for researchers to explore within group differences, understanding how fathers function as a protective factor to adolescent sexual behaviors that lead to a teen birth is where the current study contributes to this gap in the literature (Ellerbe, Jones & Carlson, 2018). As posited by Lamb and colleagues, father engagement or interaction refers to a father’s direct contact with the child through caretaking and shared activities and essential to the foundation of paternal involvement (1985). Considering the range of structural and cultural barriers experienced by Black fathers (Goodman, 2018; Johnson & Young, 2018), and the growing body of fatherhood research over recent decades which confirm the value of Black father involvement to both sons and daughters, the current study aims to answer the research question of “How do the assets of Black fathers offer protective qualities to a Black adolescent female avoiding a teen birth?”


Using thematic content analysis and ground theory techniques, the current study explored the role of fathers to the sexual health decisions and behaviors of Black adolescent females that live in two major, urban cities. A sample of 24 adolescent and young adult Black females ages 15-22, interviewed individually (n=18) and in dyads (n=6), shared perspectives about the importance of fathers in the lives of daughters. Grounded theory coding techniques were used to develop open codes, identify categories and emerging themes. Thematic content analysis was used to examine resulting themes.


Narratives about father involvement and his unique contributions to the sexual decisions of Black adolescent females who live in urban settings were represented by three preliminary themes: “Value in Verbal Expectations of Fathers”; “Strategies Gained through Sexual Communication”; and “Resistance to Peer Pressure”.

Conclusion and Implications

Black daughters identified valuable assets in a father’s contribution to their sexual decision making. They also shared perspectives about paternal assets necessary for Black adolescent females. Pregnancy prevention interventions that target risky sexual activity among adolescent females may benefit from partnering with father involvement programs to engage Black fathers and daughters in sexual communication, particularly fathers who may live outside of the home.