Role Modeling Responsibility: The Essential Father Discourse in Responsible Fatherhood Programming and Policy. By: Randles, Jennifer. Social Problems. Feb2020, Vol. 67 Issue 1, p96-112. 17p.

Drawing on in-depth interviews and focus groups with 64 poor men of color, this article analyzes how a U.S. federally funded “responsible fatherhood” program transmitted a discourse of paternal essentiality, claiming that fathers as masculine role models uniquely contribute to child development. It reveals how, despite lack of evidence that fathers make indispensable gendered contributions to parenting, the focus on male role modeling resonated for marginalized fathers because it characterized them as essential for children’s well-being in their capacity as men, not economic providers. Using an intersectional lens, the promotion of paternal essentiality can be understood as a response to the way gender ideologies and race and class inequalities interact to shape norms of responsible fatherhood that discount men of color living in poverty. This strategy relies, however, on an empirically unsupported rationale for fathers’ involvement that individualizes the social problems attributed to “fatherlessness.” This case reveals how racism, class exploitation, and patriarchy reciprocally shape government-sponsored fatherhood programming and its impact on marginalized men’s parenting identities.