The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges scholars to explore group differences among girls with high teen birth rates in order to better understand racial disparities. In 2014, black adolescent females (ages 15-19) were the second largest racial group to become teen mothers, and more likely than other groups to experience a second birth before age 20. Since paternal presence literature suggest a link to delayed sexual debut, and results from a pilot study reveal strong community ideals about the protective nature of a father’s presence to teen childbearing, it is worth exploring the perceived importance of father presence to early sexual debut and early childbearing, specifically for black adolescent females living in volatile communities. By exploring black females’ perspectives regarding a father’s role to a daughter’s early reproductive behavior, this research may confirm deeply held community beliefs that fathers’ presence is in fact protective, not just for early sexual debut but also to a daughter’s early childbearing and sense of safety, potentially unveiling knowledge relevant to teen birth rate disparities.
Using data from two separate studies, retrospective survey data collected from black mothers ages 20-74 were analyzed using logistic regression (N=147) to measure the relationship between father presence and early sexual debut, early childbearing, closeness to a father and the threat of community violence; and qualitative data using a case study approach was used to analyze semi-structured interviews (N=4) from black adolescent females. Each adolescent was asked about the importance of a father in the life of a black female and how community violence matters to their life experience.
Quantitative results indicated that a father’s presence during childhood was significantly related to a delayed sexual debut (p<.05=.04), feeling closest to a father during childhood (p<.05=.00); and whether a father’s presence was important to a child’s life approached significance (p<.05= .09). While most respondents reported feeling the threat of community violence in childhood neighborhoods (88%), it was not significantly related to a father’s presence in the home, nor was early childbearing. Qualitative findings however, unveiled a theme of “paternal presence is important”. When black adolescent females were asked about factors related to teen births among black girls, they responded “it’s important to have a father or father figure in your life, otherwise girls be whiling out”, referring to sexual activity; and “when a father is there, there are just things that won’t happen...” referring to both early sexual activity and community threats.
Conclusions and Implications:
Taken together, results reflect a shared consciousness about the paternal role in the lives of black adolescent females living in volatile communities. Black females feeling closest to fathers rather than mothers during childhood may shed light on community beliefs about the importance of a father’s presence to a daughter’s early childbearing. Futureresearch is needed to understand the relationship between paternal closeness and black adolescent female’s sense of safety, and early sexual behavior as a means to understand factors related to teen birth rate disparities.