Fatherlessness among young black South African men

Master Thesis


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Scholars confirm that a huge proportion of black South African men are not participating in their children's upbringing, as a result, children face various challenges that impede their wellbeing. This study is of the view that there is still a need for further investigations to explore the effects of fatherlessness on children's wellbeing and to gain new perspectives on father absence within the context of black societies in South Africa. With that in mind, this study aimed to explore the impact of fatherlessness on the psychosocial wellbeing of young black South African men. The objectives of this study included investigating the following: (1) young men's experiences of growing up without their biological fathers; (2) the psychosocial effects of growing up without a biological father on young black men; (3) the ways in which fatherlessness shapes the development of a gendered (masculine) identity among young black men; and (4) to understand the ways in which fatherlessness shapes young men's participation in cultural practices that facilitate their transition to manhood (e.g. ulwaluko). A qualitative approach research approach was adopted for this study. Semi-structured interviews (face to face) were used for data collection, and both purposive sampling and snowball sampling methods were used to recruit participants for this study. The interviews were conducted with twenty-four (24) young black men (participants) who shared their experiences of growing up without the presence of their biological fathers. These participants resided in Langa township (Western Cape). The interviews were conducted during the third wave of Covid-19, so all the protocols to safeguard the spread of Covid-19 were observed. The data was analysed using thematic analysis. It further drew on the psychosocial developmental theory by Erik Erickson (1963) as a lens through which it reflects on young men's developmental processes and the ways in which such development is shaped by the absence of biological fathers. The findings suggest that many of the participants' conceptions of the roles of fathers were in line with the traditional views of fathers as financial providers, protectors, and disciplinarians. The results of this study also gave insight into challenges faced by young black men who grew up without their biological fathers. These challenges were related to their cultural identity, which then affected their capacity to build intimate relationships, affected them when they were undergoing ulwaluko, and affected their constructions of masculinity. Fatherlessness was also shown to have a negative impact on the education and psychosocial wellbeing of the young black men in the study.