Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

"Changing for My Kid": Fatherhood Experiences of Mexican-Origin Teen Fathers Involved in the Justice System

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

"Changing for My Kid": Fatherhood Experiences of Mexican-Origin Teen Fathers Involved in the Justice System

Article excerpt

A descriptive phenomenological study was conducted with six adolescent fathers of Mexican origin on juvenile probation for a variety of serious offenses. All participants successfully completed a parenting program designed especially for teen fathers. In a series of consecutive in-depth interviews, teen fathers were asked to discuss their experiences as fathers. Four phenomena were identified from the data: (a) not giving up and deciding to be a dad, (b) figuring out my relationships after becoming a father, (c) wanting to be a good father, and (d) wanting to be Brown and a father. Findings challenge negative stereotypes associated with Mexican-origin teen fathers engaged in delinquent behaviors and describe the ways in which fatherhood became an important positive motivator in the lives of participants.

Adolescent fathers are often stereotyped as negligent and irresponsible (Winstanley, Meyers, & Florsheim, 2002). Adolescent fathers of Mexican origin, in particular, have even been described as violently criminal and oversexed (Hernandez, 2002). To counter such negative stereotypes, research should be informed by an awareness of negative stereotypes and attitudes that obscure the strengths of ethnic minority groups, particularly those associated with ethnic minorities who have been exposed to challenging life circumstances such as poverty, economic hardship, and involvement in the justice system (Turner, Wieling, & Allen, 2004).

The purpose of this investigation was to describe the experiences of a group of Mexicanorigin adolescent fathers who were on probation for diverse offenses and who successfully completed a parenting program. Specifically, this study focused on learning from participants about the experience of being a teen father.

The U.S. Latino culture is comprised of multiple cultures (e.g., Mexican origin, Cuban, Puerto Rican); however, the literature, focused solely on Mexican-origin adolescent fathers, is extremely limited (Hernandez, 2002; Parra-Cardona, Wampler, & Sharp, 2006). Thus, the term Latino will be used whenever we refer to research conducted with Latino youth in general, and the term Mexican origin whenever reference is made to studies involving participants whose ethnic origins can be traced to Mexico.

LATINO AND MEXICAN-ORIGIN ADOLESCENT FATHERS

Although extensive research and a variety of intervention programs have been implemented with teen mothers (Rozie-Battle, 2003), research and public policies focused on teenage fatherhood continue to be limited (Dallas, Wilson, & Salgado, 2000; Lesser, Tello, Koniak-Griffin, Kappos, & Rhys, 2001; Marsiglio & Cohan, 1997). Studies focused on Latino and, particularly, Mexican-origin adolescent fathers are scarce (Hernandez, 2002). In addition, although Mexican-origin youth continue to be the ethnic group with the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. (Martin et al., 2004), there continues to be a dearth of research focused on describing the resilient ways in which Mexican-origin teen fathers can embrace fatherhood as a key precursor of change in their lives (Hernandez, 2002).

Researchers have documented the commitment of Latino teen fathers to remain involved in the lives of their children despite intense contextual challenges such as poverty, violence, or educational barriers (Hernandez, 2002; Lesser et al., 2001). These findings were called to question the negative stereotypes associated with Latino teen fathers and highlight the importance of informing research according to strength-based perspectives, particularly, because the strengths of ethnic minorities continue to be overlooked in research (Parke et al., 2004).

For example, Latino masculinity is often associated with negative stereotypes of machismo that depict Latino males as domineering and wanting to control women (Neff, 2001). However, an exclusive focus on this type of machismo overlooks notions of positive machismo and nobleza (i. …

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