overfathering, the fatherless generation foundation, mentor, mentorship, father, reunite

Black Men Often Become Parental Figures In Mentorship Roles, It’s Called “Otherfathering”

A newly published study from the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development (JMCD) reveals that Black men often adopt parental roles while in leadership positions as mentors, coaches, and more, a concept that has been called “otherfathering.”

Eight individuals from mentorship programs led by Black men were interviewed for this study. Their roles ranged from providing educational and employment support to offering general advice to young men. Participants discussed their positions at their respective organizations with Newswise, sharing their regular tasks.

“Sometimes it’s just as simple as, ‘Mr. A … can you write me a letter of recommendation for the National Honor Society?’” said one man. “And then sometimes it’s just at the corner store and a young man walks in and [says], ‘Hey can you give me some life knowledge?’”

While participants expressed satisfaction in their role, it is not without difficulties, some of which this study underscored including the lack of financial support. 

Associate Professor of Counseling at Montclair State University and lead author of the study Michael Hannon spoke about the discovery. 

“The Black men represented in this study who act as otherfathers in their communities are proud to do it and doing so gives them a sense of purpose. But they acknowledge that doing so is challenging, due to their desire to provide in ways that are feasible or sustainable. That can lead to feelings of guilt, frustration, and stress,” he said.

Despite these challenges, the research shows that otherfathering does yield significant benefits psychologically. “The cumulative effect of these experiences (i.e., rewards and challenges) appears to have a positive impact on participant mental health and wellbeing that keeps them otherfathering for many years despite the various stressors and challenges experienced,” it reads. 

The study offered suggestions to combat such issues including conducting follow-up research involving a more expansive list of participants and hiring counselors to challenge preconceived notions about Black men. With these adjustments, Hannon and his colleagues hope to establish a better understanding of otherfathering and the burdens it can produce.

RELATED CONTENT: Louis Macarthur: Mentoring For Impact