Methods: Retrospective data were collected using a cross-sectional survey design. The 110-item questionnaire was administered to a sample of black female residents ages 20-44, living in public housing (N=103). A probability, convenience sample was recruited through flyer distribution and word of mouth. Most participants grew up without a father in the home (60%) and experienced sexual debut before age 17 (62%). The average age of the sample was 32.4 and the average age at first birth was 20.2 (range=14-38).
Logistic regression analysis was used to determine whether a lack of father involvement, closeness with a mother, maternal education and maternal age at first birth predicted a daughter’s early childbearing before age 20.
Results: Contrary to findings using racially diverse samples, this study reflects different experiences for a sample of economically disadvantaged black women. Early father involvement, closeness with the mother, maternal age at first birth and maternal education were not predictive of delayed sexual activity that could prevent early births, thus highlighting an earnest need for future research regarding this population.
Implications: Despite the prevalent literature that links early father involvement to early sexual activity, such findings are not applicable to the childhood experience of a sample of poor black women. The current study highlights the need for further exploration of the childhood context and sexual behavioral development of poor black women. Circumstances for mothers living in public housing may differ from those of middle class households, and therefore considerable attention should be given to the unique experiences of poor black girls. Future qualitative studies may be useful in exploring relevant risk factors and protective mechanisms related to the sexual development of girls, specifically black females growing up without father involvement and who have experienced economic disadvantage.