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In recent films and television series such as Juno, 16 and Pregnant, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and The Pregnancy Pact, teen pregnancy is idealized as generally acceptable. In these modern media outlets the emotional and social struggles of prospective mothers are depicted, but the roles of teenage fathers do not receive equal attention. But, it takes two to tango and with teen pregnancy becoming all too common it is important that the plight of both parents is revealed.
“I was shocked that at such a young age I had to take on such a huge responsibility,” said John Doe when asked about his reaction to the news of impending parenthood.
With this alarm and confusion of an unexpected pregnancy, the first responsibility of the alleged parent is to confirm he is indeed the father of the unborn child. DNA testing can reveal paternity and therefore legitimize who is the father of an unplanned child. From this point, rights of custody and access can be determined.
Teenage fathers are “financially responsible for the child's costs through pregnancy, delivery and childhood, just as the mother is” and these monetary responsibilities continue until the child reaches 18 (parentingteens.suite101.com). Nonetheless, a teen father may forfeit responsibilities, including paying child support, by resigning all rights by way of court order. John Doe, however, works at Tandem Nursing home as a dishwasher everyday from 3-8 p.m. in order to support the needs of his son.
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics suggests that about 17.4 per 1,000 males ages 15-19 years became teen fathers in 2002 and this number is predicted to have increased from this point. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data supports that about 7.3 percent of teenage males become fathers and that very few of these fathers live with their children.
Because many teenage fathers are absent from children’s lives, there has been an increase of female-headed households. Increased sexual activity in youth correlates with the rise of teenage pregnancy and changing family dynamics is a side-effect. Doe claims that conceiving his child was accidental because the pair “did not use protection,” but now they carefully practice safe sex and use contraceptives.
John Doe is an exception in that he is “committed to the relationship” he has with his child’s mother whom he has been dating for two years. The pair rent an apartment together with their son and their own parents “play an active role and visit often.”
A common error of teen fathers is to drop out of high school in order to get a job to help provide for their child. However, this solution only limits the future potential of the young parent. Without a high school diploma one is not even qualified to work at McDonalds, much less advance in a career that will provide a suitable lifestyle, or support a growing child.
Anonymous has plans to graduate high school and become “a graphic designer” in the future. He knows that by pursuing his personal goals he will set an example for his child who he will “support 100% in whatever he is interested in.”
Unfortunately the social demographic for teen fathers is bleak as they tend to come from families with multiple siblings, parents with lower education, and income levels nearing poverty. In fact, the parents of many teenage fathers were teen parents themselves. In teen fathers there is a trend of reduced self esteem and they tend to have more children accumulatively than men who wait until at least the age of 20 to have children (www.time.com).
Fortunately, the growing numbers of programs offering assistance to teen fathers has encouraged young men to engage in job training opportunities and educational chances.
A study by The Bank Street College showed that at the end of a two-year job training program, “61% of the previously unemployed young men had found jobs” and “46% of those who had dropped out of school had resumed their education” (www.time.com).
“I don’t regret it,” says John Doe, although he wishes he had “done things differently” and waited to start a family.