Family, Child, Adolescent Health (Includes Maternal & Child Health)
Racial differences in teenage fathers’ characteristics over the life course
(School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community Health Doctoral Student)
Objective: Understanding of racial differences as they relate to teenage fathers’ early risk factors and later outcomes is limited. The goal of this study is to provide a national portrait of teen fathers’ characteristics over time, including family background, schooling, crime/delinquency, substance use, living arrangements, and socioeconomic attainment, with particular attention to Black and White differences. Approach: This study was a secondary data analysis from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Our sample consisted of self-identified Black and White males who fathered a child before age of 20 (N=278, 32.7% Blacks). Analyses are based on data from participants’ adolescence (1994-1995), transition to adulthood (2002-2003), and young adulthood (2008-2009). Descriptive statistics were conducted in STATA 14.0 and accounted for survey sampling weights. Findings: No statistically significantly differences were found between Black and White teen fathers in parental involvement, ever repeating a grade, school connectedness, and delinquency during adolescence. In their early 20s, a greater proportion of White teen fathers than Black teen fathers reported substance use; Black fathers were more likely to cohabit with a partner and perceived greater emotional and financial support from their parents. By young adulthood, Black teen fathers were more likely to be arrested, had less work participation, and a mean income 2.6 times lower than Whites. Conclusions: Findings from this study suggest that Black teen fathers, while similar to Whites in adolescence, experience greater accumulation of disadvantages over the life course. The gap in socioeconomic outcomes in young adulthood might be accentuated by the social context that shapes the experiences of Black and White teen fathers substantially differently. Public Health Significance: Teenage fathers’ differences in patterns of substance use, socioeconomic outcomes, and crime suggest important implications for interventions and resource allocation to support Black and White teen fathers’ successful transition to adulthood.