Research Review: Teenage pregnancy and parenthood: the role of fathers

Lisa Bunting, Colette McAuley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    From the research available in America and Britain it would appear that the men who father children by teenage mothers tend to be a few years older than their teenage partners, although a minority may be significantly older. With regard to the factors associated with fatherhood there are striking similarities to the literature on teenage mothers. Like teenage mothers young fathers tend to be from low socio-economic backgrounds, experience lower educational attainment and fewer employment opportunities than their childless peers. Similarly they tend to experience greater psychological and emotional difficulties and may have a history of delinquent behaviour.

    These young fathers are involved in a variety of relationships with teenage mothers, few of which result in marriage and many of which result in the breakdown of cohabitation or the termination of the relationship. This pattern of increasing relationship breakdown over time is related to decreasing paternal contact with children in both America and Britain. Often conflictual relationships with teenage mothers or maternal grandparents and a lack of financial resources are cited by young fathers as barriers to their continued involvement and contact with their children. However, the mothers are much more likely to cite paternal disinterest as the reason for a lack of paternal involvement and there is some indication that mothers and fathers have different views on the level of practical involvement expected from fathers. While most of quantitative data on the subject provides a rather negative picture of paternal involvement, qualitative research highlights how many young fathers genuinely want to be involved with their children and would have more contact and input if they could.

    While much less is known about the support provided to young fathers in comparison with their female counterparts, there is some suggestion that the support and role expectations provided by the paternal grandmother may influence how involved young fathers are. There is also some indication that a sizeable minority of young men may receive no such support from their family and may also be treated with hostility or ignored by the maternal grandparents. Young fathers also report limited or no contact with midwives, health visitors and social workers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)295–303
    Number of pages9
    JournalChild and Family Social Work
    Volume 9
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 02 Jul 2004


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