Sociology Doctoral Student Receives Doris Duke Fellowship to Study African-American Fatherhood

Last year when sociology Ph.D. student Clinton Boyd, Jr. applied for the prestigious Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being, he wasn’t accepted. A year later, the Chicago-native is now a 2016 Doris Duke Fellow and proof that sometimes a denial is simply a delay in disguise. Unknown

“I have to admit that my ego was bruised after being turned down the first year,” said Boyd. “But I honestly felt that the scope of my proposed study was reason enough for me to reapply. Securing the Doris Duke Fellowship would allow me to do some important policy and practice-related work with regard to African-American fathers and their kids, this is especially important given the current societal atmosphere for these men and their children.”

Boyd’s dissertation, “The Missing Link: Neighborhood Environments, African-American Fatherhood, Child Well-Being and the Call for Strategic Policy Reform,” explores how the positive parenting practices of African-American fathers can promote child and community welfare in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The Ph.D. student’s current research focus was greatly influenced by his work as a graduate research assistant on a father-focused home visiting study in Metropolitan Atlanta. Several of the men he visited daily were low-income, African-American fathers, many with felony histories.

“My work with fathers has left an indelible impression on me,” he said. “Looking at them, their children and their neighborhoods is a constant reality check. I could’ve been one of them. That’s why I’m so passionate about my work.”

 Boyd, who grew up in the Westside of Chicago, saw and experienced the negative impacts of poverty firsthand. When he had his daughter at 16-years-old, he decided that he’d spend his life actively pursuing opportunities to shatter the barriers imposed on his family and families like his.

“I wasn’t always striving to be the man I am today. Growing up in inner-city Chicago, I often felt as if my life options were limited. All that changed after the birth of my daughter,” Boyd said. “As I’ve gotten older, I always wonder, ‘why me?’ Too few of the young Black men from my local Chicago neighborhood have the type of opportunities I’ve been blessed with. I feel as if I have a social responsibility. I’m privileged to be able to go in and out of both worlds. I consider myself the buffer between the haves and have-nots.” 

Boyd’s research not only investigates how neighborhood environments impact children’s well-being and the parenting of African-American fathers, but it also takes a look at the current social environment in terms of police brutality and its effect on African-American children, especially African-American girls.

 “There has been a lot of attention given to the contentious relationship between African-American males and law enforcement. But not much attention has been given to Black women, particularly Black girls, and their involvement with police officers,” he said. “As a father raising a young, African-American girl, I’m interested in exploring what African-American fathers are doing through their parenting practices to limit these negative interactions altogether.”

 He added, “I want to make sure my research findings are regularly available and understandable to the general public. Although I am a sociologist in training, I don’t want my work isolated within the academic community. It is very important for the messages associated with my research to touch the streets because that’s where the real conversations are taking place.”

Boyd has already begun to take his work to the streets. He is currently developing a research plan for Atlanta and anticipates launching his efforts at the start of 2017.

For more information about the Doris Duke Fellowship, please click here.

About the Doris Duke Fellowship

The Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being was created to develop young leaders who are interested in creating practice and policy and initiatives focused on improving child well-being. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago jointly sponsor the fellowship.