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The Role of Fathers in Reducing Dating Violence and Sexual Risk Behaviors

An African-American grandfather with his two grandsons.

The Role of Fathers in Reducing Dating Violence Victimization and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among a National Sample of Black Adolescents” (abstract). Binta Alleyne-Green, Claudette Grinnell-Davis, Trenette T. Clark, and Qiana R. Cryer-Coupet. Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 55 (April 2015).

What it’s about: Alleyne-Green et al. explored the impact biological fathers and father figures, such as stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, or other male role models, have on reducing dating violence and sexual risk behaviors among African American youth.

To do so, the researchers interviewed 422 African American youth between the ages of 13 and 21 about their relationships with their fathers or father figures, their sexual behaviors, and whether they experienced dating violence.

Why read it: Previous research indicates that youth who have close relationships with their fathers engage in fewer sexual risk behaviors. The authors noted the lack of research on the impact of fathers and father figures with regards to sexual risk behaviors among African American youth. In addition, there is wide consensus that fathers play a significant role in the well-being of their children; however, 65 percent of African American youth live in single-parent households headed by a female. This study aims to fill the literature gap by exploring not only the role of biological fathers but also that of father figures in the well-being of African American youth.

Biggest takeaways from the research: Overall, there was no correlation between dating violence victimization and sexual risk behavior among boys and young men, but girls and young women who had experienced dating violence were more likely to have engaged in risky sexual behaviors. The authors recommend that HIV prevention programs, and programs such as the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program target African American girls who have experienced dating violence.

Findings from the study related to the influence of fathers and father figures include the following:

  • Both male and female youth who perceived having close relationships with their fathers or father figures were more likely to have used contraception during their last sexual encounter and used it more often over the previous 18 months.
  • Boys and young men who indicated a close relationship with their father or father figure were less likely to have experienced dating violence. In contrast, there was no correlation between girls and young women having strong relationships with their fathers or father figures and experiencing dating violence.
  • Contrary to the authors’ expectations, the activities a father or father figure engaged in with the youth had no effect on incidence of dating violence or sexual risk behaviors. This finding suggests, the authors write, that closeness of the relationship may be more important than the level of the fathers’ engagement.

The authors assert that more research is needed to better understand the impact fathers and father figures have on sexual risk behaviors and dating violence victimization in youth. Specifically, they suggest, future research should examine simultaneously how both the level of the fathers’ engagement and the quality of the relationship with their children influences youth dating violence victimization and sexual risk behaviors.

Additional references: Learn more about fatherhood in our digital library.

Learn about the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

Read NCFY Reports “Promoting Fatherhood Where It’s Needed Most.”

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