Primary Sources: African American Teen Fathers' Perspectives on Fatherhood

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Photograph of an African American father with his family.

Perceived Fatherhood Roles and Parenting Behaviors Among African American Teen Fathers” (abstract), Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 26, No. 1, January 2011. (originally published online November 2010)

What it’s about: Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 30 African American fathers, aged 14 to 19 years old, in order to learn how this group defined and performed the father role. Over half the young men described fatherhood primarily in terms of providing financially for their children. Almost 30 percent defined fatherhood as being nurturing—physically present, emotionally involved, and spending “quality time” with their children. A small group of fathers said that neither they nor other fathers had any real obligation to provide for or be involved in the lives of their children.

Why read it: Few studies have focused on African American teen fathers’ own perspectives about their fatherhood experiences, beliefs, and practices. Also, while most research on African American teen fathers has focused on those 15 years of age and older, this study includes the views of fathers as young as 14 years old.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Fathers who described their relationship to their child’s mother as positive were more likely to provide for or nurture their children. In contrast, teen fathers who rejected any fatherhood obligation expressed resentment or hostility toward their child’s mother. Youth workers can help teen fathers repair relationships with their children’s mother in order to help them build connections with their children.

Also, teens who did not assume any fathering role expressed feeling overwhelmed by the idea of being a parent. In some cases, being a father conflicted with their identities as teenagers, and children represented potential obstacles to their personal goals and dreams. Youth workers can help young fathers sort through the transitions and challenges associated with parenthood, as well as those related to normal adolescent development. Youth workers can also help teen fathers integrate fatherhood into their sense of self and help them make a plan to be involved fathers and also achieve their goals.

Additional reference: The National Fatherhood Initiative works to help men become involved, responsible and committed fathers. The website includes information and resources for teen fathers as well as community-based and school-based programs working to support strong father involvement. 

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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