• African American;
  • fatherhood;
  • men;
  • single parent

The authors use an ecological framework and grounded theoretical analysis to explore the circumstances in which working-class and low-income custodial African American fathers gain custody of their children, their transition from part-time to full-time parents, and the role of support networks in enhancing or inhibiting these men's parenting. Twenty-four men from an impoverished Midwestern urban area participated in the study. The findings suggest that these men, and perhaps others sharing their demographic profiles, generally become parents by default and are often reluctant to take on a full-time, single parenting role. Adaptation to the role seems to be enhanced by these men's use of extended kin support networks and shared living arrangements. However, low wages, a lack of sufficient assistance from public assistance programs, and informal custody arrangements often inhibit their fathering.