Young fathers are often at risk of fewer employment opportunities, lower educational achievement and low socio-economic status. In addition, young fathers face a number of emotional and psychological difficulties. The proposed study will seek to investigate the attitudes, beliefs and needs of prospective young fathers with respect to fatherly roles. A qualitative phenomenological design will be used in the proposed study. The selection criteria for young fathers will include being less than 20 years during the birth of their firstborn; or when the mother was less than 20 years during the birth of the baby while the father was less than 25 years old. In addition, the study will consider young prospective fathers aged less than 20 years at the time of the birth of their first child or when the baby’s mother would not have reached 20 years and the young man would not have reached 25 years. The interview will be conducted with the participants using open-ended questions that captured a number of concepts associated with fatherhood such as the attributes that make ideal fathers, the needs and goals of fatherhood as well as challenges and rewards associated with young fatherhood.
Young and adolescent parents form a vulnerable population because their profiles are usually characterized by fewer opportunities for employment, lower educational achievement, as well as low socio-economic status, which is contrasted with their peers who are yet to become parents (Brosh, Weigel, & Evans, 2007). In addition, young and adolescent parents are more likely to report experiences associated with greater emotional and psychological difficulties as well as a history of deviant behavior when compared to their non-parent peers. Furthermore, young parents are more likely to report cases of exposure to parental divorce/separation and domestic violence during childhood when compared to older parents, which is likely to limit the contact of young parents with positive role models in terms of parenting (Corcoran, 2001). Young fathers are the most advantaged owing to the fact that family-centered child welfare services put emphasis on young mothers. Recent empirical research has reported that social workers and healthcare service providers are inclined towards the mothers’ needs as the main parent. In addition, studies have reported that caseworkers do not recognize the significance of paternal involvement in parenting (England & Edin, 2007). Moreover, young and adolescent fathers often perceive social institutions and service providers as being both unsupportive as well as a barrier to their parental involvement. The majority of young fathers hold the view that staff at social service agencies hamper in their parenthood instead of providing professional support. A number of social workers involved in assisting mothers and children consider nonresident fathers possibly dangerous. Consequently, their inclusion is likely to create an insecure environment for the child and the mother (Minnick & Shandler, 2011).
The problem of teenage fathers has been overemphasized in literature. In the United States, statistics show that in an estimated 750,000 teenage pregnancies, 80 percent of teen fathers do not marry the child’s mother, and that, teenage fathers are less likely to graduate from high school when compared to their non-father peers (Minnick & Shandler, 2011). Studies have also shown that children who do not live with their fathers are 5 times at risk of being poverty-stricken when compared to children who live with both parents. The problem of teenage fathers is compounded by the fact that there are no teenage fathers program to provide necessary assistance. In addition, young and adolescent fathers are more prone to unemployment and economic challenges when compared to adult fathers. According to Mollborn (2011), teenage fatherhood is often connected with negative outcomes for both the child and the father, which are usually similar to the negative outcomes associated with teenage mothers. Nevertheless, empirical evidence is gradually suggesting that teenage fathers are expressing interest with respect to their involvement with the child although this involvement may not usually entail financial support. The majority of single mothers have expressed a desire for the father’s involvement in the upbringing of the child (Feldman, 2007).
Empirical research has affirmed the positive impacts of fathers’ involvement in the behavior and development of children. In this regard, the involvement of teenage and young fathers in the upbringing of their children helps promote the psychological development of the father, strengthen the relationship between the father and the child as well as improve the father’s self-esteem. Owing to the fact that relatively few teenage fathers live in the same household with their children and that non-residential paternal involvement tends to reduce as time progresses, the level of paternal involvement with children is often less than that of adult fathers, particularly with the aging of their children. During the past decade, numerous studies were conducted to explore the experiences of teenage fathers of low-income backgrounds (Mollborn, 2011). Nevertheless, most of these studies focused on the experiences of young African American fathers. The themes associated with the perceptions of fathers regarding fatherhood responsibilities, as reported in these studies focused on the notion of accountability, which puts emphasis on “being there” for the child as well as offering financial support. Regardless of the increase in the interest among teenage fathers, little attention has been paid to young fathers, which is mainly attributed to the relative difficulty in the identification and recruitment of young fathers to participate in research studies. As a result, there is little information regarding the beliefs and attitudes regarding the parental role of teenage fathers, especially the self-reported requirements for good fatherhood (Mollborn, 2011).
The proposed study will seek to investigate the attitudes, beliefs and needs that present and prospective young fathers have with respect to fatherly roles. Having a comprehensive understanding of the views held by young fathers regarding their needs, goals, roles and difficulties that experience including their hopes can increase the probability that social work programs can help young fathers in playing a positive role as regards the development and growth of their children. This has the potential of improving the likelihood that children of teenage fathers will grow into adults who are well developed and healthy. The following is the research question for the proposed study:
1. What are the needs, attitudes and beliefs of teenage fathers regarding fatherhood?
Adolescent Parenthood and Fatherhood
Several studies have been conducted on adolescent parenthood, especially with respect to adolescents’ adapting to their parent strategies and roles they adopt in order to be able to cope with the changes associated with young parentage (Corcoran, 2001; Feldman, 2007). Vast research findings put emphasis on the following negative outcomes associated with adolescent parentage: high rates of unemployment and school dropouts, low income, higher levels of poverty, and cycle of either single and/or adolescent parenthood. Some research studies have proposed that the negative outcomes associated with teenage parenthood cannot be avoided (England & Edin, 2007). In literature, adolescent parenthood is perceived mainly from a deficit perspective, which implies that teenage parents are typified by the degree to which they fail to satisfy the ideal parenthood and pregnancy conditions. In addition, just like poor parents, adolescent parents often suffer the blame of being responsible for their difficult circumstances and conditions they find themselves in as well as for causing wider societal issues linked to their parental status (Robbers, 2008). Regardless of these prevalent beliefs, there is the need to tackle the issue of teenage parenthood from different viewpoints. As it has been mentioned above, prior research regarding teenage parenthood has placed a lot of emphasis on teenage mothers; consequently, little attention has been paid to teenage fathers. The proposed study was based on the need to understand the voices of young fathers by expressing their own experiences, which are under-represented in the popular discourse relating to teenage parenthood.
The risk factors linked to adolescent fatherhood are the same as the risk factors related to adolescent motherhood. In literature, teenage fatherhood has been associated with reckless sexual behaviors; the yearning to attain a symbolic adult status; increase school dropout rates and poor academic performance; lessened income potential; and low socio-economic status. When compared to white teenagers, African American teenagers are less likely to utilize contraceptives and are more likely to refuse to undergo abortion as an alternative to unwanted pregnancies (Corcoran, 2001). A number of research studies have explored the developmental aspects associated with adolescent fatherhood. Adolescent males who are parents tend to undergo developmental jeopardy when adapting to the psychological, social and biological changes associated with adolescence including changes associated with being a parent. According to Feldman (2007), young men, just like all other teenagers, are trying to cope up with challenges and stresses attributed to the changeover from adolescence towards adulthood. However, unlike their peers who are not parents, adolescent parents face additional challenge of managing the demanding tasks linked to their premature progression to fatherhood. Problems experienced during the premature transition among adolescent parents can be attributed to the fact that they are less equipped to handle the strain and role conflict that often characterizes first parenthood (England & Edin, 2007). Adolescent males are more likely to lack the emotional and cognitive capacities needed for mature parenting, which is further compounded by the fact that teenager parents suffer from the struggles associated with separating from one’s parents and becoming independent.
Researchers tried to understand adolescent fatherhood using cultural and structural explanations. For instance, England & Edin (2007) conducted an ethnographic research and reported the structural and social barriers that limit the ability of teenagers to express their masculinity, parental status as well as the progression into adulthood via mainstream avenues such as meaningful employment. As a result, teenagers tend to express their masculinity and status in other avenues such as fatherhood. There is no social pressure on teenagers not to be fathers, owing to the fact that children who are born outside wedlock do not experience a significant stigma, especially among African Americas, who have the highest prevalence of adolescent fathers. Brosh, Weigel, & Evans (2007) assert that African American teenagers become fathers due to cultural expectations because of the underlying social expectation that they will be adolescent parents. Such social expectations are not prevalent among whites.
One of the common issues explored in research relating to teen father experience is the level of involvement with the child. A study conducted by Corcoran (2001) that used detailed conversational interviews pointed out that, adolescent fathers who were able of articulating their fatherhood perceptions eloquently had higher involvement with their children when compared to adolescent fathers who were not eloquent in articulating their fatherhood perceptions. In addition, the study revealed that higher father involvement was connected with the view that becoming a father helped in contributing to the development of the adolescent. A longitudinal study by Robbers (2008) involved adolescent fathers who took part in an intervention program that was developed with the main objective of teaching and improving the fatherhood skills as well as the involvement of teenage fathers. Robbers (2008) measured the involvement of the father with the child prior and after taking part in the intervention program. The intervention program comprised of a mix of family activities, individual therapy, group sessions and workshops aimed at empowering and educating the adolescent father regarding his role in the child’s life. The amount of involvement by the adolescent father was measured by the frequency of participation in activities that are performed together with the child, the way of interaction with the child, the support provided to the child, and the assistance offered in terms of the parenting tasks. Robbers (2008) found out that involvement of the adolescent father increased significantly after taking part in the intervention program. Before taking part in the intervention program, Robbers (2008) found out a significant correlation existing between the amount of involvement from the adolescent father and the child’s age. In addition, Robbers (2008) reported a negative between the amount of father involvement and the age of the adolescent father, whereby younger adolescent fathers were more involved with the child when compared to older adolescent fathers. It can be attributed to the fact that younger adolescent fathers get more pressure and help from their family members to provide support to their children. Nevertheless, after taking part in the intervention program, older adolescent fathers reported more involvement with their children than younger ones.
Past studies on adolescent fatherhood have also explored the level of responsibility. In this regard, Feldman (2007) found out that thr majority of adolescent fathers considered responsibility as a crucial aspect with respect to their perceptions regarding fatherhood. Feldman (2007) also reported that adolescent fathers are overwhelmed by the parental obligations associated with fatherhood. In consistent with this view, another research reported that adolescent fathers rarely change baby’s diapers or clean the baby. However, adolescent fathers were of the view that parental responsibility gives their lives meaning and purpose, regardless of the nature of the responsibility (handling obligations associated with parenthood, emotional or financial). Studies have also reported that teen fathers’ perceptions regarding fatherhood had a significant impact on the manner of parenting approaches. The most influential aspect on teen parenting is the experiences associated with their fathers.
Study Design and Sample
The proposed study will make use of a qualitative research design. The specific qualitative design that will guide the study is phenomenology. According to Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong (2011), phenomenology helps in providing a comprehensive understanding of the person’s lived experience including the meanings associated with the experience. In addition, phenomenology requires the researcher to refrain from being influenced by preconceived ideas, biases and any stereotypes when collecting and analyzing data. As a result, phenomenology advocates for the collection of data using individual interviews. The use of individual interviews as a data collection approach for the proposed study draws on the fact that interviews can help in eliminating the challenges and barriers associated with engaging adolescents and young individuals in the research process (Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong, 2011).
In this study, the selection criteria for young fathers will include being less than 20 years during the birth of their firstborn; or when the mother was less than 20 years during the birth of the baby while the man was less than 25 years old. In addition, will be considered young prospective fathers if they would be less than 20 years at the time of the birth of their first child or when the baby’s mother would not have reached 20 years and the young man would not have reached 25 years. Another eligibility criterion for the study will be the ability to speak English. Young fathers and young prospective fathers will be recruited during the period January 2015-March 2015 from numerous human and health services centers in California. Flyers containing information pertaining the research, incentives and self-referral methods will be distributed at the centers, which will include social service agencies, and national job training facilities. The use of flyers alone will not be efficient in recruiting participants; as a result, key outreach staff at each of the centers will be provided with the comprehensive information regarding the study. Site staff will be required to help in the distribution of the flyers pertaining to the study to teen mothers, teen expectant mothers and young fathers vising their facilities. Site staff will also be contacted frequently in order to constantly remind them of the study. The proposed study seeks to recruit 30 young fathers and young expectant fathers to take part in the research. Young fathers who will be recruited to participate in the research will be provided with a detailed explanation of the study including its purpose and the importance of their contributions. After ascertaining the eligibility of participants, face-to-face interviews will be conducted. In addition, the participants will be provided with a consent form before taking part in the interview. In order to build trust, ensure that participants are comfortable and are able to provide candid feedback, the interview sessions will not be audiotaped. In addition, increasing the level of trust between the interviewer and interviewee will imply that the researcher will only collect limited demographic data. Personal questions relating to living arrangements, income and educations are usually considered sensitive, especially for a population that may be potentially benefiting from public assistance. As a result, the proposed study will refrain from asking such questions. The research will take extensive verbatim notes during the interviews. Clarifications and additional explanations will also be sought during the interviews.
Data analysis will make use of content analysis, which in its turn utilizes coding procedures aimed at making inferences that can be replicated to the context as well as the identification of recurring and emergent themes. Content analysis will entail repeated readings of the responses provided by participants, a coding scheme will be developed on the basis of the interview questions as well unexpected comments provided by participants. In presented findings, emergent themes will be identified, which will be followed by providing exemplar quotes. In addition, descriptive statistics will be used in presenting the characteristics of the sample. The reliability of the results presented in this research will be guaranteed using a number of ways, which will include using expert advice when developing the interview protocol; interviews will be conducted using one researcher; and asking participants to revisit their responses at the end of the interview in order to affirm the accuracy of their responses (Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong, 2011).
This qualitative phenomenological study had the main objective of exploring the needs, attitudes and beliefs of young fathers and prospective young fathers with respect to fatherhood. Data was collected from comprehensive individual interviews with young fathers, after which data was analyzed using content analysis based on the interview questions. Table 1 below summarizes the socio-demographic aspects of participants. The mean age of teen and young fathers during the birth of their firstborn was 18 years (Standard Deviation = 3). In addition, 9 respondents were prospective fathers whereas 4 participants reported having at least two children. Despite the fact that no young father or prospective young father indicated being married to the baby’s mother, 23 respondents (77 percent) indicated that they were in a relationship with the mother of the baby at the time the interview was conducted.
Race/Ethnicity of Participants
Multiracial - 9 (30%)
Native American - 3 (10%)
Hispanic - 2 (7%)
African American - 15 (50%)
White - 1 (3%)
Number of Children
One child - 17 (57%)
At least two children - 4 (13%)
Expecting the first child - 9 (30%)
The themes identified in this research related to a number of aspects including the attributes that make a good father; examples of ideal fathers; needs and goals of fatherhood; and the challenges and rewards associated with fatherhood. Regarding the attributes that make a good father, a dominant theme in this category was the availability of the father, which focused on the father “being there” for the child. The young fathers and prospective young fathers who participated in this research were of the view that the main attribute of an ideal father was his availability during the time of need, which young fathers considered a goal that they hoped to accomplish. Other themes that were used in describing an ideal father included taking responsibility for the child, teaching the child valuable lessons; and offering both emotional and financial support.
With respect to examples of ideal fathers, most of the participants (37 percent) cited their male relatives to be examples of ideal fathers rather than their fathers. For instance, one respondent stated, “my uncle is an ideal father because I see his kids respect him a lot and manages to get their attention through talking with them…” Female relatives were also cited as examples of ideal mothers by 7 percent of participants. For instance, one respondent cited, “my grandmother has always been there for me and I consider her a mother.” Other examples of ideal fathers mentioned by the participants include male acquaintances, their own fathers, and themselves as being ideal fathers. As regards the needs and goals of fatherhood, majority of the young fathers who participated in this study acknowledged that, becoming better fathers requires them to change their current and prior behavioral patterns. One of the issues mentioned by most participants is the need to become a good example for the child. Some of the self-improvement changes mentioned by young fathers included securing employment, being a good role model and progressing with education. The goals of young fatherhood focused mainly on finishing school, obtaining a job, and lifestyle changes. In addition, young fathers expressed the need for their children to be better than them and refrain from making the same mistakes that they have made, which is being a father at young age, and finishing school. Young fathers also expressed the challenges and rewards associated with young fatherhood. The most common reward mentioned by the participants in this research was the happiness and joy brought about by being a father. For instance, one participant commented, “my son is the best thing that has ever happened to me…” Respondents also cited the satisfaction that they felt with respect to the responsibilities associated with fatherhood as well as the satisfaction associated with having a living legacy. Nevertheless, a number of challenges were mentioned by participants, which mainly included the financial burden associated with fatherhood responsibilities. Other challenges mentioned by young fathers included issues with childcare and relationship with the baby’s mother.
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