We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Defiant Dads

Fathers' Rights Activists in America

Jocelyn Elise Crowley

Publication Year: 2008

All across America, angry fathers are demanding rights. These men claim that since the breakdown of their own families, they have been deprived of access to their children. Joining together to form fathers' rights groups, the mostly white, middle-class men meet in small venues to speak their minds about the state of the American family and, more specifically, to talk about the problems they personally face, for which they blame current child support and child custody policies. Dissatisfied with these systems, fathers' rights groups advocate on behalf of legal reforms that will lower their child support payments and help them obtain automatic joint custody of their children.

In Defiant Dads, Jocelyn Elise Crowley offers a balanced examination of these groups in order to understand why they object to the current child support and child custody systems; what their political agenda, if enacted, would mean for their members' children or children's mothers; and how well they deal with their members' interpersonal issues concerning their ex-partners and their role as parents. Based on interviews with more than 150 fathers' rights group leaders and members, as well as close observation of group meetings and analysis of their rhetoric and advocacy literature, this important book is the first extensive, in-depth account of the emergence of fathers' rights groups in the United States. A nuanced and timely look at an emerging social movement, Defiant Dads is a revealing investigation into the changing dynamics of both the American family and gender relations in American society.

Published by: Cornell University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (853.0 KB)
pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (110.7 KB)
pp. 3-8


pdf iconDownload PDF (56.5 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (81.2 KB)
pp. ix-x

This project would not have been possible without the assistance of many different people. For all of their time and insights, I first must thank my interview respondents and those whom I observed while conducting this research. ...

read more

1. A Coming Revolution in Fathers’ Rights?

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.9 KB)
pp. 1-13

In scenes like this all across America, angry, dispossessed fathers are demanding rights. They argue that since the breakdown of their own families, they have been deprived of their most basic parental joys: the freedom to love and experience their children in the fullest ways possible. ...

read more

2. The Origins of Fathers’ Rights Groups in the United States

pdf iconDownload PDF (174.0 KB)
pp. 14-38

What, exactly, do fathers do within modern families? The answer, of course, varies across racial, ethnic, and class lines. But even within these broad socioeconomic categories, a high degree of diversity exists in the attitudes, aptitudes, and behavioral styles of individual fathers. ...

read more

3. Membership Dynamics in Fathers’ Rights Groups

pdf iconDownload PDF (192.6 KB)
pp. 39-75

One of the most difficult challenges facing groups seeking to transform social life in America is attracting committed members. Interestingly, this is only a fairly recent problem. As Theda Skocpol (2003) has described in Diminished Democracy, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ...

read more

4. Becoming the Chief

pdf iconDownload PDF (193.3 KB)
pp. 76-106

Arguably one of the most important changes in American family politics from the 1970s to the present day is the almost complete replacement of mother-oriented advocacy groups concerned primarily with child support reform with father-oriented advocacy groups dedicated to reform in the areas of both child support and child custody. ...

read more

5. Money Changes Everything, or American Child Support Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (227.7 KB)
pp. 107-144

From this snapshot of a fathers’ rights group in action, it is clear that men want to pay less or no child support to women. But what would this type of reform, if enacted, do to the financial well-being of America’s female-headed households? ...

read more

6. The Custody Wars

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.6 KB)
pp. 145-173

Beyond overhauling the child support system, fathers’ rights activists consider child custody reform to be the most important issue facing legislators and judges at all levels of government today. Unlike material assets accumulated during the course of a relationship or a marriage, the law has had much more difficulty “dividing” up children ...

read more

7. Frayed Ties: Fathers’ Relationships with Mothers

pdf iconDownload PDF (244.0 KB)
pp. 174-211

The political goals of fathers’ rights groups are, in many ways, the public face that these organizations present to decision-makers and the media. To the extent that Americans are beginning to recognize the influence of these groups at all, they are familiar with this public face. ...

read more

8. The Ties That Bind: Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children

pdf iconDownload PDF (203.1 KB)
pp. 212-246

One of the least controversial programs run by some fathers’ rights groups in the United States are child access centers, also known as transfer sites or safe havens. As we have seen, during the 1970s and 1980s as a result of the dual problems of rising divorce rates and nonmarital childbearing, ...

read more

9. “Crooked Trees,” Activism, and Healing in Dissolved Families

pdf iconDownload PDF (143.1 KB)
pp. 247-270

The fathers who are the subject of this book had complex stories to tell about their family lives. Many were understandably angry that their adult relationships had fallen apart. Many were also sad and depressed that their wives or girlfriends had left them, or that they had felt, for whatever reason, the need to be the one to leave. ...

Appendix A. Research Methodology

pdf iconDownload PDF (64.8 KB)
pp. 271-275

Appendix B. Unstructured Interview Guide

pdf iconDownload PDF (58.3 KB)
pp. 276-278

Appendix C. No-Fault Divorce Legislation Dates, by State

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.1 KB)
pp. 279-293

Appendix D. Number, Rate, and Percent of Births to Unmarried Women and Birthrate for Married Women: United States, 1950–2003

pdf iconDownload PDF (143.1 KB)
pp. 280-282


pdf iconDownload PDF (120.2 KB)
pp. 283-300


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.1 KB)
pp. 301-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780801460128
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446900

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1