Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

"Wanting to Be a Good Father": Experiences of Adolescent Fathers of Mexican Descent in a Teen Fathers Program

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

"Wanting to Be a Good Father": Experiences of Adolescent Fathers of Mexican Descent in a Teen Fathers Program

Article excerpt

Adolescent fatherhood has received limited attention in research and clinical practice. This article describes the design and implementation of a parenting program for adolescent fathers, largely minority, involved in the juvenile justice system. In the teen fathers groups, adolescent fathers were exposed to therapeutic (e.g., family-of-origin) as well as psychoeducational (e.g., child development and parenting) interventions. Findings from a descriptive phenomenological study with six former group participants indicate that the program is an effective way of assisting teen fathers in increasing their commitment as fathers as well as their involvement with their children.

The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world (Singh & Darroch, 2000). Children of teenage mothers are at greater risk of suffering a variety of health, social, and economic disadvantages as compared with children born to older women (Hofferth & Reid, 2002). Even though extensive research and a variety of intervention programs have been carried out with teen mothers (RozieBattle, 2003), research and public policies focused on teenage fatherhood remain minimal (Marsiglio & Cohan, 1997).

One of the limitations of the existing research on young fathers is that teen fatherhood has been approached as a part of teen motherhood phenomena, ignoring important differences between the experiences of teen mothers and teen fathers (Thornberry, Smith, & Howard, 1997). This limitation is reflected not only in the way in which teen fatherhood has been conceptualized but also in the way in which research has been conducted (Mazza, 2002).

Teen fathers are considered to be a high-risk group based on the number of challenges they face: financial difficulties, educational barriers, relationship instability, increased likelihood of involvement in deviant behavior, and lack of developmental maturity (Marsiglio & Cohan, 1997). Because adolescence by itself is a particularly challenging stage of human development, the experience of becoming a father is likely to be much more stressful for adolescents than for older fathers (Kiselica, 1999). In addition, adolescent fathers who have experienced challenging family backgrounds of violence, poverty, and/or substance abuse are at increased risk of continuing patterns of abuse and neglect with their own children and subsequent generations (Wark, Kruczek, & Boley, 2003). Because the primary purpose of this study was to explore the usefulness of a parenting intervention designed for Latino adolescent fathers, and particularly for those of Mexican descent, the next section will contain a brief review of the research conducted with these populations.

FATHERHOOD RESEARCH IN LATINO POPULATIONS

There is substantial consensus that "fathers' emotional investment in, attachment to, and provision of resources for their children are all associated with the well-being, cognitive development, and social competence of young children" (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2000, p. 128). In addition, fatherhood research has also produced a vast body of knowledge concerning diverse expressions of paternal behavior, factors that influence father involvement, and the ways in which fathers interact with their children (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2003; Roggman, Fitzgerald, Bradley, & Raikes, 2002). However, and despite the fact that Latino(a)s constitute the largest ethnic minority group in the United States (US Census Bureau, 2000), research on Latino fathers continues to be limited (Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). Particularly scarce are studies focused on the parenting experiences of Latino adolescent fathers, including those of Mexican descent (Lesser, Tello, Koniak-Griffin, Kappos, & Rhys, 2001).

Research focused on Latino fathers needs to take into consideration the social, economic, cultural, and familial influences that surround their fathering experiences (Coltrane, Parke, & Adams, 2004; Mirandé, 1997). …

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