This qualitative study explores the meaning of fatherhood from the perspective of never-married parents. Specifically, the study describes: how African American custodial mothers perceive the roles and responsibilities of their children's fathers; the extent to which these mothers' perceptions and definitions of noncustodial fatherhood are consistent with those of noncustodial fathers and the dominant cultural "ideal"; and what mothers do to enhance men's paternal participation. A convenience sample of 25 never-married,f ormer couples was drawn from the predominantlyA frican American population of a mid-sized Midwestern city. Data was collected via in-depth interviews with each individual respondent. The findings suggest that African American custodial mothers' expressed definition of "ideal" fatherhood tends to reflect traditional Western standards, which emphasize the paternal economic role. However, in practice, mothers, like fathers, emphasize the social and emotional aspects of paternal responsibilities. Overall, it appears that while these mothers really want financial support, they are willing to forego economic support in lieu of the social and emotional support fathers provide.

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