Child rearing practices and attitudes of adolescent fathers
There has been considerable interest and sometimes concern for teenage parents. This interest has developed for two reasons, firstly, it has been viewed that teenage parents are inappropriately young to have children, and secondly, it has popularly been thought that the number of female teenagers becoming pregnant and subsequently giving birth to children has dramatically increased over the last twenty years. Much of this attention has focused on the young mother, because she has been thought to shoulder the major responsibility for looking after the child. This is not untypical of research on parenting which has adopted a mother biased approach, although there has been a more recent interest in the fathers. The object of this study was to examine the experiences of one hundred young fathers, aged seventeen to twenty two, who were regularly involved with their infant. The fathers were interviewed at home and data was collected on all aspects of their family participation. Younger fathers appeared to be an extremely disadvantaged group, many had few or no formal qualifications and during a period of high general unemployment a disproportionate number of the sample were unemployed. The financial responsibilities of fatherhood placed added burdens on this group and restricted many of the opportunities that should have been available to men of this age. Contrary to popular opinion the young fathers interviewed often had long standing relationships with the mother and were highly psychologically involved with their children; although they were not always highly participant in child care activities. As with research on older fathers, younger fathers were shown not to take on the major responsibilities of caring for children, even though some (those who were unemployed) had a greater opportunity to do so. They reported being interested and involved at every stage of the child's life, even during the periods when circumstances made it more difficult for them to be highly participant; the nature of this involvement changed as the needs of the mother and the child altered. However because of their age, and as a consequence their lack of preparation, many young fathers and mothers had to negotiate a turbulent period which was sometimes very stressful. This study suggests that although being young in itself does not necessarily cause younger parents to be qualitatively different from older parents, it does indicate that they face more problems which because of their age they may be more vulnerable to.