adolescent childbearing. Demographic, familial, and environmental characteristics are well
documented, both in terms of circumstances and consequences for the teen parent and their child.
Very little attention, however, has focused on adolescent fathers. This population-level
descriptive study examines paternal characteristics of young fathers in California, including their
history of maltreatment and child protective service (CPS) involvement prior to becoming
Methods: California vital birth records were used to identify young men aged 12 to 19 years
who were named as fathers on birth certificate of children born in 2010. These young fathers
were then linked to historical child protective service records to determine paternal history of
alleged and substantiated maltreatment, as well as placements in out-of- home foster care. Birth
record variables were used to characterize paternal demographics: age, race/ethnicity, and
education. Chi-Square tests were utilized to examine differences in levels of past child protection
involvement across all characteristics.
Results: In 2010, a total of 465,102 children were born with paternity established at the time of
birth (91% of all births). Approximately 4% of these births were to adolescent fathers aged 12 to
19 years. Of the young fathers, 30% experienced prior allegations of maltreatment, 11%
experienced a substantiated allegation, and 7% had previously been placed in out of home care.
There were statistically significant differences in paternal age, race/ethnicity and education
among young fathers with and without past CPS involvement. Forty-three percent of young
black fathers, 40% of young white fathers, and 46% of Native American young fathers had a
history of alleged child maltreatment. Young fathers with a CPS history were significantly
younger (p<.001) compared to young fathers with no documented maltreatment history. Among
fathers 18 years and over, those with a CPS history were less likely to have completed high
school compared to young fathers with no CPS history (p<.001).
Conclusions/Implications: This is the first population level examination which focuses on teen
fathers and indicates that many of these young fathers have a history of alleged or substantiated
maltreatment. The findings highlight an opportunity to engage this population in services to
support healthy parenting to prevent next generation involvement with child protective services.
This analysis also underscores the importance of having complete documentation of father’s
information and demonstrates the need to improve the assessment of this information in
administrative data systems.