The Role of Social Networks Among Low-Income Fathers: Findings from the PACT Evaluation

OPRE Report 2016-60
Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Oct 31, 2016
Authors
Angela Valdovinos D'Angelo, Emily Knas, Pamela Holcomb, and Kathryn Edin

Key Findings:

  • The average scope of PACT fathers’ social networks was small compared with national norms, although the number of connections varied; 15 percent of participating fathers reported no ties to their family or to friends; 44 percent had 1–4 connections to family or friends; and 41 percent had five or more connections. 
  • Those with ties to both family and friends used their social networks for all four types of support examined in the study: financial, in-kind, emotional, and housing. In contrast, the 24 fathers with primarily family ties mainly benefited from family members’ emotional support and depended on them less frequently for financial or in-kind support. 
  • Fathers with larger social networks named twice as many organizational sources of support as fathers with fewer or no social ties did.      
  • Fathers who had no connections to family or friends attributed their isolation to family members’ death or abandonment and expressed a general distrust of peers. Also, former friends and peers in these fathers’ lives often remain involved in the undesirable activities these fathers no longer wish to be involved in.
Low-income fathers who participated in qualitative interviews for the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation lack robust social networks, reporting an average of only five core ties with friends and family members—far below the national average of 23 core ties. These and other findings drawn from the qualitative component of the PACT evaluation reveal the composition and function of social networks among fathers who participated in four Responsible Fatherhood programs, as well as the types of organizational supports they turn to for assistance.