Girls In Fatherless Homes Engage In Riskier Activities

Reuters Health
June 6, 2000

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (Reuters Health) - Young women who grow up in homes without a father or father figure tend to have sex earlier and have more partners, a Texas A&M University researcher said here Monday.

Danny Ballard, a professor of education at the university, reported the study findings at the Eighth Annual Congress on Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine.

Ballard and a colleague surveyed 971 women attending community college or vocational nursing programs in southeast Texas. However, the women voluntarily participated, so the sample is not very scientific, Ballard explained. The sample was also somewhat skewed because the vast majority of the women reported having a father or a father figure while growing up.

But, Ballard believes that the results prove that girls, just as boys, will act out in the absence of a father's guidance. The study findings should ring alarm bells because some 20 million children are estimated to live in a home without a father or father figure, Ballard added.

Women who had a father or father figure reported having their first sexual intercourse at 16.6 years, compared with 15.8 years for those who had absentee fathers, Ballard said. Girls without fathers had an average 4.5 sexual partners before age 19, compared with 2.5 for those with fathers.

There was no statistically significant difference between the groups when it came to unintended pregnancies, but there was a trend towards more unintended pregnancies in women without fathers, Ballard noted. Among the study participants, 509 women had become pregnant and 368 of these women said their pregnancy was not planned.

Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited.