Some would say the title of this post is just a bad plan. But what can’t be argued are the facts:
- Teens are having babies.
- Teen boys are becoming fathers.
- Children are growing up in homes without their fathers.
- Marriage is an option.
The topics of teen pregnancy, teen fathers, and marriage are of the utmost importance to NFI -- particularly because of how closely they align with father absence and child well-being.
According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in Why It Matters: Teen Childbearing, Single Parenthood, and Father Involvement, “…teen mothers are at high risk for single parenthood and especially high risk of parenthood without the biological father in the home”. Further, “Reducing teen pregnancy can improve child well-being by increasing the chances that children are born into two-parent families and, in particular, families with married parents.”
Research shows that children have better outcomes when they grow up in a home with two married parents. Studies further indicate that while father involvement is important, where the father lives is also important. In one study, the benefit of increasing father involvement was more than twice as great when the father lived with the child than when he lived elsewhere.
But when it comes to teens:
- The majority of teen mothers (88% in 2010) were unmarried when their child was born.
- Of those teen mothers who were not married when their child was born, only about one-third (34%) went on to marry by the time their child reached age five.
- Furthermore, more than one-third (38%) of teens who were married when their child was born split up by the time their child reached age five, and 42% of those who were cohabiting when their child was born split up by then.
In addition, teen mothers living apart from the father of their child report that half of the nonresident fathers met with their child in the past month, and, among those who did, about half visited at least weekly. Recent research also shows that father absence is actually the cause for children having poor outcomes related to a range of physical, mental, and social issues – compared to when their father is involved in their lives.
Interestingly, with regard to intergenerational cycles - teen boys who live with both parents initiate sex at an older age compared to teen boys whose father is absent (the former, helping to prevent future, unplanned, teen pregnancies.)
So, it seems decent to conclude that by working to help teens make wise decisions about sex and pregnancy, and how to participate in healthy relationships, we will also, by default, work to reduce father absence and increase the proportion of children who grow up with involved, responsible and committed fathers – all for the benefit of current (or future!) children.
BAM! A match made in heaven.
Looking for programs to work with teens who are, and who are not, already parents? NFI recently launched two new curricula for teens: Download samples of Love Notes and Relationships Smarts Plus.