The Times

Tuesday, June 15 1999

Image of teenage fathers
'not borne out by facts'

by Our Social Affairs Correspondent
The Times

A STUDY of 40 fathers aged 16 to 24 suggests that the image of teenage fathers as feckless and irresponsible is not borne out by the facts.

None of the men saw a need to marry the mother and all had ended their relationship with her when the child was very young or, in some cases, before the baby was born, researchers at Newcastle University found.

They had, however, maintained a relationship with their child and most claimed that they did contribute towards some kind of maintenance, although that maintenance sometimes took the form of gifts, clothing, treats and practical childcare rather than cash.

The study found that little effort was made to encourage the young men to develop and maintain involvement with their child, even though the men themselves recognised that that was very important.

Many felt unable to take support from the few fathers' groups that existed. They did not feel welcome at general family support groups or groups established for young mothers. Youth and community workers were the most supportive, but that was generally because of individual workers, rather than the service itself.

The most common reason given by the fathers for not having more contact with their children was the mothers' reluctance to let them. Most of the men were proud to be seen as competent carers and displayed a knowledge of child-care issues. Caring for their children, changing nappies or feeding them was not seen as a woman's job. Several felt that they were better carers than the mothers were.

The child's grandparents played a big role in the development of the father-child relationship. That was especially true of the paternal grandparents, who often gave practical, financial and moral support to the young man.

  • Young single fathers: Participation in fatherhood - bridges and barriers by Suzanne Speak, Stuart Cameron and Rose Gilroy (Family Policy Studies Centre, 9 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SN; £9.95 plus £1.50 p&p).

    Copyright 1999, Times Newspapers Ltd.