Assisting young fathers (ages 16-25) with the joys and challenges of parenthood are a central focus of fatherhood programs. Many young fathers are extremely involved in the lives of their families and will participate in fatherhood programs if services are designed to meet their needs.
While they face the same demands as all new fathers, young fathers in their teens and early twenties face additional challenges as they move into adulthood. They may not have finished high school, and they often are not married or even living with the mother of their child.
In general, young parents tend to be emotionally and intellectually unprepared for parenthood and may reflect this by showing impatience and intolerance toward their children.
Additionally, young fathers may feel excluded by the mother or the mother’s family. In some cases, a young father’s own family may try to discourage him from being involved due to financial or other concerns. Therefore, assisting young fathers remains a key component of many fatherhood programs.
Tips & Best Practices
- Use the latest research and statistics on young fathers. The Office of Adolescent Health, Department of Health and Human Services’ Resources for Serving Young Fathers (2016) supports and informs anyone working with young fathers. The goal is to help programs reach more young fathers; influence research, practice, and policy to better address young fathers’ needs; and improve the lives of young fathers and their families.
- Follow recommendations from evidence-based resources when developing programs for young fathers. This Center for the Study of Social Policy brief makes child welfare system policy and practice change recommendations that recognize the critical role young fathers can play in improving the outcomes of their children and families. The brief highlights state and local policies; programs that identify, engage, and support young fathers; and the voices of young fathers’ experiences. It also provides links to practice guides and other resources to support implementation.
- Understand young fathers’ challenges and provide resources to support involvement in their child’s life. Research indicates that young fathers often deal with complex identity changes, experience significant financial hardship, require legal advice for maintaining contact with their child, need male-tailored parenting advice, and can benefit from improving their relationship with the child’s mother. Parenting programs can support young fathers by providing these resources, which in turn can improve their relationship with their children.
What are the demographics of young fathers?
About 2% of male teens (age 15-19) have fathered a child, compared to 14% of young men in their early twenties (age 20-24). Hispanic and black teens are more than twice as likely to be fathers compared to their white peers. About 25% of Hispanic men and 20% of black men between the ages of 20 and 24 are fathers, compared to roughly 10% of their white counterparts.
What are some of the risk factors for adolescent fatherhood?
Several studies indicate adolescent fatherhood is associated with multiple risk factors including low self-esteem, addiction issues, relationship issues, and father absence during childhood and these factors appear to equate with the specific support needs of young fathers.
What are the benefits of young father involvement with the mother during pregnancy?
When fathers are involved during pregnancy, teen mothers are more likely to receive adequate prenatal care, especially during the critical first trimester, are less likely to smoke, and report fewer depressive symptoms.