Young fathers are just as important and integral to their children’s lives as young mothers are, but, it just so happens that we know a lot less about young fathers.
Past research on young parents has overwhelmingly focused on the mother, in part, this is due to limited data on fathers, as the child’s birth certificates often have no reference to the dad. A recent study by Child Trends that looked at teens who became fathers in 1997, and their later circumstance, shows some interesting patterns:
- Almost one-half of the men who fathered a child as a teen have more than one child by the time they are between ages 22 and 24. 9% had a child with a woman who was not the mother of their first child.
- Overall, 44% of the men in the sample who had fathered their first child while in their teens were living with that child at ages 22 to 24.
- 17% of the teen dads did not live with any of their children, 18% lived in the same household with all of their children, and 14% lived in a household with some, but not all of their children.
- A higher percentage of former teen fathers who were living with their first child at the time of the birth were living with that child during their early twenties compared with those who were not living with their first child at birth.
This suggests that if a teen dad is encouraged and supported to live with the child and its mother, the chances are better that he will stay involved and be part of the family in the future. Dads who aren’t living in the home when their child is born seem to find it easier to detach from the family later. Of course there are also moms and grandmothers who make it harder for young dads to stay involved – “gatekeeping” the child and restricting the father’s access. The research sample included 490 young men in the US who were between the ages of 13 and 19 at the birth of their first child.
Other research has found that young dads who have more than one child have reduced opportunities for education and economic stability. In a UK study, men who became fathers in their early twenties were twice as likely to be unemployed at age 30. Teen dads who father children with more than one partner have poorer relationship quality, decreased involvement with their children, reduced co-parenting and increased relationship conflict. However, there are many young dads who are committed to supporting their children and staying involved. These dads need supportive people and programs in their lives to motivate and help them.
We need to ensure that young people are getting information and support around contraception and the realities of pregnancy and parenthood. If young men aren’t informed and understanding of the possible outcomes of sex and relationships, we are eventually adding to the number of single-parent homes; statistically these are poorer and have worse outcomes for children on many levels. Father involvement isn’t a guarantee of success, but it has a huge impact on the future of the children of these families.
Check out Dads Make a Difference for some great resources on working with young fathers!
by David Sheftel
Young Parent Outreach is a dynamic resource program providing services and support to young pregnant women, young moms and dads, and their children in the Greater Victoria area.
These services – provided by The Cridge Centre for the Family – are designed to give young pregnant women and young moms and dads the help and support network they need to have healthy babies and to be effective, successful parents. Whether it’s housing, income assistance, food back or dealing with child custody or substance abuse, The Cridge Young Parent Outreach program can help.