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The African American Non-Resident Fatherhood Program

Principal Investigator

Wrenetha Julion, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN

Project Key Personnel

Susan Breitenstein - Co-Investigator, RUSH University College of Nursing
John Burns –Co-Investigator
Louis Fogg – Co-Investigator, RUSH University College of Nursing
Donald Waddell – Project Director (Community-Based)
Jen’nea Sumo – Project Director, RUSH University College of Nursing
Deborah Gross – Co-Investigator, Johns Hopkins University

Award Period


Funding Source

National Institutes of Health


This proposal requests support for a study to examine the effects of an intervention aimed at increasing paternal involvement in African American non-resident fathers. Although the number of children living without fathers has grown nationally, the greatest percentage of children living apart from their fathers is found among African American (AA) families. Two thirds of all AA children in the United States live in households without their biological father. Father presence is important to the emotional, social and developmental well being of children throughout the child’s life. Positive father involvement is also important to the health and wellbeing of fathers themselves. Therefore, the purpose of this project is to test the Building Bridges to Fatherhood (BBTF) program, an innovative video-based fatherhood program developed with the guidance of a Fathers Advisory Council. The purpose of the BBTF program is to increase and sustain paternal involvement among AA fathers and their young children (2-5 years). The BBTF program will be tested in a randomized clinical trial among 180 families of young children across 2 large predominantly African American areas (west-side and south-side) of a large Midwestern city. Fathers will be recruited via key informants from multiple community sites (i.e. churches, barbershops, community centers, schools, day care centers, local business establishments, dry cleaners, and sports venues) and randomly assigned to either the BBTF intervention or a Financial Literacy (FL) attention control group. Participants will be assessed at pre-intervention, 12 weeks and 24 weeks using self-report measures completed by fathers and the child’s biological mother and participate in a booster session at 18 weeks. Dependent variables include: paternal involvement (material and in-kind [non-monetary] support and direct father/child interaction), father parenting competence (self-efficacy, satisfaction, parenting skills and knowledge), father psychological wellbeing (self-esteem, general and racial stress), father communication and problem solving, and father and maternal reports of child behavior and development (cognitive, emotional, social). Further, father-mother relationship quality will be examined for its mediating affect on fathers’ outcomes and paternal involvement. This proposal builds on our prior research: (1) refining an effective and culturally relevant parent training model so that it has enhanced social and contextual validity for African American non-resident fathers, and (2) providing a real-world intervention for fathers that has as its primary aim to facilitate and sustain father involvement in early childhood, before father estrangement becomes entrenched and intractable. This study is consistent with the NINR goals for the 21st century to address cultural and ethnic disparities in health promotion and intervention activities by developing innovative, culturally responsive, evidence-based interventions that are tailored to the individual.