Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood: Global Perspectives, Issues and Interventions

By Helen S. Holgate; Roy Evans et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Deconstructing patriarchy and masculinity
with teen fathers
A narrative approach

David Nylund

The study of teen parenthood has become almost synonymous with the study of teen mothers, but relatively little research attention has been devoted to the study of teen fathers. Nevertheless, because it appears that becoming a teen father has negative developmental consequences for both the teen father and his children, it is an important area of inquiry. Furthermore, the information gathered on teen mothers is not necessarily applicable to adolescent fathers in that different factors may influence their parental behavior and experiences. The purpose of this chapter is to provide insight into and understanding of the experiences of teen fatherhood and to examine the barriers to effective teen father parenting. Because the voices of young male parents are not adequately represented in the discourse of social science literature and social policy, this chapter provides an account of their experiences and examines the context in which their experiences occur, from the lens of a clinical example.

Research on teen father participation in child rearing suggests that the majority of teen fathers were significantly involved in the lives of their children (Rhein et al. 1997; Smith et al. 2002; Glikman 2004). The findings in these qualitative research projects help to challenge a societal stereotype of the irresponsible young father. Yet these research projects suggest that there are particular barriers that predict parental uninvolvement, including limited income, youth immaturity, and lack of parenting skills. Paschal (2004), using the lens of social ecology and feminist theory, found that many African American young fathers who were not involved with their children subscribe to traditional ideas of masculinity. These beliefs propose that mothers are responsible for parenting and fathers, at best, help out. My clinical work with many teen fathers confirms Paschal’s argument; many of my clients were underinvolved with their children due to internalizing patriarchal ideas of parenting. This chapter will illustrate how I might work with young fathers to examine their ideas of fatherhood and encourage them to become involved and interested in child rearing. First, I will lay out the theoretical foundation that informs this work, namely narrative therapy. Second, I will offer a case example as an exemplar of this work.

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