Abstract: Does Growing up with Father Involvement Matter? Investigating the Association of Black Women's Early Father Involvement to Early Childbearing (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Does Growing up with Father Involvement Matter? Investigating the Association of Black Women's Early Father Involvement to Early Childbearing

Friday, January 12, 2018: 4:14 PM
Monument (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Marquitta Dorsey, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Despite historical declines in teen birth rates, black girls are the second largest racial group to become teen mothers, and more likely to experience a second birth before age 20 than any other racial groups. It is well established in the literature that father involvement can act as a protective mechanism for early sexual activity among adolescence females. The current study examined the relationship between early father involvement and early childbearing for a sample of black women living in public housing. Since much of the literature on father involvement and early sexual activity utilizes racially diverse samples from middle class families, it is important to explore protective factors related to the early life circumstances of black girls, particularly those who experience economic disadvantage. For cases where father involvement is lacking, it is also important to consider whether various maternal influences, such as maternal education and mother’s age at first birth, can serve as protective mechanisms for early births. Understanding which factors matter most to poor black girls’ early sexual development may provide valuable knowledge to both father engagement policies, and pregnancy prevention programs for girls facing economic disadvantage.

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.