- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520274067
- ISBN-13: 978-0520274068
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City 1st Edition
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From the Inside Flap
With a clear-eyed honesty and frankness, Edin and Nelson probe the experiences of fathers among our urban poor, and what they discover is both surprising and hopeful. Edin and Nelson should be applauded for their bold on-the-ground research which pushes us to consider that men whose lives are often marked by disorder having children can often be a stabilizing force. Doing the Best I Can turns many of our assumptions about fatherhood on their head.” Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
"Doing the Best I Can will change the way we think about unwed fatherhood in the inner city. The book, based on in-depth interviews with low-income black and white fathers in Camden NJ and Philadelphia, is a real page-turner. Nelson and Edin’s well-written narratives on the lives of low-income fathers, their role as fathers, and relationships with their children are replete with fresh insights. This compelling book is a must-read."William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University
I am confident that this book will instantly become the leading source of information on the nature of unwed fatherhood today. It shows a new path of intimate life for unwed young men, suggesting that marriage is no longer central in low-income young adults’ intimate partnerships. It will be an eye-opener, a detailed portrait we have not seen before.”Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University
This book smashes the stereotype of poor dads as the hit and run’ or deadbeat’ men who care only about casual sex and have no interest in the resulting kids. It is also unflinchingly honest about the sometimes egregious behavior of the men. Its poignant narratives and astute analysis make it the book to read on poor fathers.”Paula England, New York University
Top customer reviews
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The one thing that particularly stands out is the high value and importance poor families place on their children and family life. Many of these out-of-wedlock births were unintended, unplanned and the use of contraception was questionable at best. Moving up the economic ladder and attending college and earning a higher standard of living wasn't always an option or consideration of these young impoverished parents. These father's were usually very happy when they found out their girlfriends were pregnant, and attempted to establish a stable relationship, caring for the mother and their child, at least while the child was smaller, the parents may or may not had planned to marry.
Edin pointed out that often fathers didn't have a father themselves, had limited resources, job and income prospects, and may have had problems with alcohol and substance, and/or lack the maturity to remain faithful. Sometimes there was the possibility of incarceration due to illegal and criminal activity. Other complex problems of these fathers may included multiple fertility- fathering children by different women. Many of these fathers had a tendency to support and parent children of the women they were with, even if they weren't the biological father.
The studies revealed that as the children grew, the realistic challenges of poor urban parenting put a tremendous strain on these fragile parenting relationships that may not have been that stable in the first place. By the time their children reached age 5, these parents were typically no longer together, and had moved on to other relationships. The reasons for unplanned fatherhood were many, but the one thing that stood out: fatherhood offered these men a new hope and possibility for them to prove themselves both on a social and cultural level, further defining their masculinity, and to do the right thing for their children, even if it was on a limited means or basis. There are pages of statistics and excellent references for further study.
Kathryn Edin is a distinguished professor of sociology and Timothy J. Nelson is an lecturer in social policy and author. Both teach at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
They found a surprising number of men who wanted and tried to be part of their children's lives although they were rarely able to provide for their support and had definitions of fatherhood that differed from traditional middle class standards. A number had been influenced to change destructive habits by having a child in their life. The authors suggest hope for policies involving these men more extensively in their children's lives, but to an untrained outsider the almost universal lack of education, a steady job, ability to maintain sobriety or avoid criminal activities make such goals noble but questionable. They would certainly need the assistance of role models which none of them have ever had.
Wish they would have talked more about incarceration and how it contributes. It was mentioned but not explored in-depth. A good follow-up would look at incarceration in the "potential solutions" chapter.