On my holiday I read a very interesting piece from Yvonne Roberts in The Observer magazine. It points out that 'no statistics are kept on the number of "young fathers" – classified as anyone becoming a dad under the age of 24, and often much younger'. There are interesting contributions from Shane Ryan of Working With Men:
Ryan says many of the young men he works with are already marginalised,
from ethnic minority groups or less affluent backgrounds; some may have
come from families with a history of abuse or mental health issues, or
have been in trouble at school. "Once they become dads, too often that
pattern of exclusion begins again. They are expected to fail when they
have assets and love to offer. Some teenage mothers, support services
and grandparents can make it extremely difficult for them to gain a
foothold in their children's lives."
There are some really touching contributions from young fathers, and links to other resources. For me, this is the nub of it:
Mark S Kiselica writes in When Boys Become Parents, "For too long our culture has treated boys who become fathers… as
detached misfits who are the architects of many of our nation's
problems, rather than seeing these youth for who they really are: young
men trying to navigate a complex array of difficult life circumstances
that place them at a tremendous disadvantage." Investment in
high-quality compulsory relationship education in schools and a national
holistic service for young parents would benefit children, mums and
dads. It would save the taxpayer money in the long run, since absent and
neglectful dads also exact a cost, as many of the young fathers
interviewed testified about their own childhoods. "They can become the
men they want to be," says Shane Ryan.
The issues are also covered in more depth in this article on disadvantaged young fathers-to-be.