The bulk of studies on teen pregnancy center on the mother, but very young fathers are presented with significant obstacles when it comes to their own education and ability to earn a livable income. Teen fathers have less education and are less likely to finish high school than their peers who have not yet become fathers, according to research from Indiana University Bloomington. Teen fathers enter the labor market earlier and by their mid-20s, earn less than their peers who were not adolescent parents.
Bristol Palin, 17, daughter of Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin, and Levi Johnston, 18, Bristol's boyfriend and the father of the baby she's carrying, represent a very small minority of teens. Only 7% of births each year involve teenage fathers, and only 3% of adolescent men are married, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which does research and provides education on sexual and reproductive issues. A story at ABC News online examines the challenges faced by adolescents who become fathers.
In one study of 45 children of teenage fathers, only 45% were living with their dads by the age of 18 to 24 months.
Teen dads need help and support, says Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, a group that aims to support and educate fathers of all ages about their role. Warren himself was a father at the age of 19 and married when his girlfriend was five months pregnant. "We've been married for 26 years. The kid went to Harvard and the whole deal," he says. "But there are a lot of forces working against you."
"You've got to give [teen fathers] the skills they need to connect heart to heart with that child," he says. "And that gives them the motivation to finish school, find a job, support the family. Support him in the process of maturing, which he's going to have to do at light speed."
Photo: Students at Mission Viejo's Silverado High School in a class on premature fatherhood. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times