Primary Sources: How Much Responsibility Do Teen Dads Accept for Their Partners' Pregnancies?

A young father holding his son.

Becoming Teen Fathers: Stories of Teen Pregnancy, Responsibility, and Masculinity” (abstract). Jennifer Beggs Weber. Gender & Society, Vol. 26, No. 6 (December 2012).

What it’s about: Jennifer Beggs Weber, of University of Missouri, Columbia, interviewed 26 teen fathers living in a Midwest city with higher than average teen birth rates. She wanted to find out how much responsibility young dads accepted for their partners' pregnancy.

Why read it: Teen fathers face the stigma of being a teen parent. They're also subject to gender norms that can influence their behavior, such as deciding to have unprotected sex. Weber writes that sexual health and teen pregnancy prevention programs don’t typically acknowledge these structural and cultural influences, instead framing teen pregnancy as a woman’s problem. Understanding how gender roles can impact teen boys’ decisionmaking can provide youth workers with more tools to prevent both first-time and subsequent teen pregnancy.

Biggest take away for family and youth workers: Weber found that 22 of the teen fathers interviewed blamed the mother for the pregnancy, while four blamed parents, a doctor or circumstance, like a broken condom. While none of the men took responsibility for his role in the pregnancy, Weber highlights how gender norms about masculinity influenced the teens’ decisionmaking, simultaneously informing their identity development and reinforcing stigma.

“It’s just one of those things where you just wanna have sex,” 16-year-old Brian told Weber, after saying the pregnancy was an accident. “You’re not thinking of anything else . . . I mean . . . I’m a guy, you know . . ."

While the teen fathers’ responses varied, where they placed blame did not, Weber writes. Some said the mother wasn’t on birth control, but they didn’t consider using a condom, either because they didn’t like them or that birth control wasn’t a man’s responsibility. A few of the teen fathers said they didn’t use a condom because they were in love or felt especially committed to the mother.

When it came to explaining the pregnancy and the teem fathers' role in it, Weber notes that there was no difference based on the race and socioeconomic level of the participants, though those factors have played a role in her other research on teen fathers.

Weber writes that masculinity norms could be translated into assets, serving as a valuable resource for young men as they construct their identities and strive to be viewed as "good" men. Youth workers could draw on this finding by linking teen fathers with positive male role models.

Additional resources: Read more about teen parenthood in our digital library. For example, to discover more about young fathers’ perspectives on parenthood, read Perceived Fatherhood Roles and Parenting Behaviors Among African American Teen Fathers.

For more resources, visit the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, a federal effort to provide resources for communities and programs that encourage and support involving fathers.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families.

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