I have yet to see a Hallmark commercial advertising a Father’s Day card for teenage dads. Perhaps these fathers are viewed as absent, insignificant, or even harmful in the lives of their children. Maybe card manufacturers recognize that teen parenthood is more of a problem to be solved than an event to be celebrated.
Recent research published by Child Trends gives us some insight into the nine percent of men who father a child during their teen years.
- Most (63%) of these teen fathers were in their late teens at the time of their child’s birth.
- These young men are not in committed relationships. Only eight percent were married to their child’s mom. Sixty-six percent of these fathers were not living with their child’s mom.
- Forty-nine percent of these men had a second child by the time they were 24 years old, but only nine percent of the time was that child born to another women.
- Even by 24 years of age, only 49 percent of the men had even lived with their child.
The good news is that the teen birth rate decreased 44% from 1991 to 2010, and is at its lowest since 1946. The bad news is that kids born to teenage parents are at a significantly increased risk for all kinds of behavioral, emotional, and academic problems.
Good dads are important to children. Is it possible or desirable to get these young men involved in the lives of their children? Research suggests that with lots of support for these young dads, they can make a commitment to their kids. Research funded by the Ford foundation in 2005 found that with counseling and support services, 82 percent of dads reported daily contact with their kids and 74 percent contributed financially to their children’s support.
How can we help our teens deal responsibly with this issue?
- Recognize that our kids are sexual. Around 42 percent of unmarried children will have sexual intercourse during their teen years, although that rate is less than 25 years ago, when the estimates were closer to 50-60 percent
- Teach protection. Twenty-two percent of our kids have unprotected sex. I realize the ethical problems many parents have in simultaneously discussing both abstinence and birth control. However, the kids who decide to have sex need to be knowledgeable about their sexual health and how to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
- Label teen pregnancy for what it generally is—a disaster for both parents and kids. Kids having babies is bad for these infants and their parents. Don’t be reluctant to demonize teenage pregnancy. It is the end of so many dreams for child moms and dads, and is generally a terrible way to raise a baby.
- Take responsibility. If you father a baby, become a responsible, accountable, and positive influence in your child’s life.