Social researchers have long studied the effects being a mother has on teenage girls, but a new Yale study has revealed that there are significant consequences for teenage fathers as well.
The study, by Jason Fletcher, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health, has found that young men who become fathers during their teenage years are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to join the military or seek full-time employment. Published online March 24 in the journal Economic Inquiry, the study also found that teens who practice birth control face smaller consequences than those who do not.
“The effects are consistent with a story that suggests teenage fatherhood makes boys ‘grow up’ quickly, which means getting married, finishing school (maybe with just a GED) and getting a job,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher’s study focused on young men whose partners became pregnant before they were 18 years and 9 months old.
Though this is not the first paper to examine the consequences of teen fatherhood, Fletcher said that it was difficult to find data to support his hypotheses that parenthood alters a teenage man’s career prospects.
Vincent DiCaro, vice president of public affairs at the National Fatherhood Initiative, said that teen fatherhood has not yet been thoroughly researched, especially in comparison to the literature that exists on teenage motherhood.
Patricia Paluzzi, president and CEO of the Healthy Teen Network, said the lack of research on teen fathers may be a result of women’s historical association with parenthood.
Though she had not heard of the Yale study, Paluzzi said she felt that its results are consistent with what has been published.
“We know there is a higher risk of dropout from teenage dads compared to their peers,” she said. “I haven’t heard of increased employment or involvement in armed forces, but that makes sense.”
DiCaro added that Western culture largely constructs fatherhood in economic terms.
“If there is one thing that motivates men to earn money, it is having a child,” Dicaro said.
Though the results were not entirely unexpected, the findings of the study suggest that there is a need to target young fathers as well as boys at risk of becoming fathers in order to help them increase their chances of finishing high school, Fletcher said.
DiCaro said he believes that if teen boys fully understood what children need from a father, they would realize that they currently are not in a position to provide these needs, and that this research will help them understand their own consequences.
“The more information there is about how difficult it is to be a teen father, the more it will serve to deter young men,” DiCaro said.
Fletcher said he believes his research can be extended further by following the fathers in the study as they age to examine whether the employment effects are short-term.
The research was conducted in a joint project with faculty at Wisconsin for three years. The data used in this study was collected by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.