In our experience, both families of the teen mothers and those of the teen fathers react negatively to the teen fathers: shock, anger, disappointment, embarrassment. Families of the teen fathers often instruct the teen father to deny paternity because the family does not want to accept responsibility for the payment of “damages” (usually an negotiated amount of approximately R10 000 for impregnating the girl paid to the girl's family), and ongoing support/maintenance.
Both families, but particularly the girl’s family, usually discourage the teen father from being involved in the care of the child and access is often denied (despite his legal rights), particularly if he does not financially support the child. The boy’s family also treats the teen father differently to the way they had treated him before, with him being constantly reminded in response to any request (e.g. for a new pair of shoes) that he “is a father now”.
The girl's family often demands that the teen father not be allowed to return to school until the girl is able to do so (i.e. both must be in the same boat). The boy’s family often insists that he leave school and work in order to support his child because they are struggling financially. Often he neither finds work or returns to school. His peers may react by teasing – particularly if he leaves school; or by promoting his “macho” image.
... and what response would you recommend?
That the teen parent be supported, informed re: his rights and responsibilities, be included in parenting skills training, and counselled so that he can make informed decisions regarding his new role and responsibilities and his future e.g. completing his schooling and perhaps getting casual work to help support his child. He needs support in terms of his “father” role and personal well-being e.g. safe sex to avoid another pregnancy and STD/HIV infection. A balanced approach of both support and recognition of consequences of behaviour.
That the teen parent is encouraged to build a relationship with his child and supports the mother of the child in taking care of the child.
Are teen fathers included in support offered to pregnant teens?
Our Teen Parenting Programme is offered to teen biological parents i.e. mothers and fathers – after the birth of the child and teen care-givers i.e. teens caring for siblings, nieces & nephews etc.
What kind of support would a teen father need?
Much the same as teen mothers: parenting skills training; support group; and counselling where necessary. Our teen fathers respond well to parenting skills input and enjoy group discussions re fatherhood with our male facilitator.
Are there any organisations that offer support specifically to teen fathers?
The Parent Centre; loveLife
Is your son a teen father? How did you react to the news?