Teen Fathers Need Help, Too

November 24, 1990

Efforts to deal with teen-age pregnancy have long been flawed by lack of attention to young males. Yet teen-age sex and pregnancy are not just the concern or responsibility of young girls.

Fortunately, Maryland authorities concerned with children and youth have recognized this gap in the system. New programs in pregnancy prevention now include males. Here's why:

Nationwide in 1987, at least 105,364 teen-age boys became fathers and 85,637 babies were born to parents who were both teens, according to the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy. To reduce such statistics, new programs geared to young males offer various approaches: delaying sexual initiation, sex education, decision-making, parent involvement, teen theater, condom distribution, male outreach and family planning.

Why were males excluded from pregnancy prevention efforts? Maybe because of common attitudes toward girlfriends who become pregnant. According to a Parade magazine survey, about 30 percent of the males surveyed said that if their girlfriends become pregnant, they'd expect them to have abortions. Another reason is the prevalent notion that males are not concerned about their children. According to the National Longitudinal Survey, 63.6 percent of 18-year-olds who were fathers were not living with their children.

It is vital to reverse these negatives if programs are to be effective in dealing with the other half of the teen-age pregnancy problem. Studies demonstrate that many young males are concerned and do want to aid the mothers in supporting their children. But one overlooked idea is that some young males just don't know how to be responsible. And if they did, they would still need to find jobs paying enough money to let them support the young families they have formed.

Some groups have taken this fact into consideration. Like the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy, the Baltimore Urban League and other groups have designed programs focusing on those young males who want to live up to their responsibilities, but don't know how. It is important to continue teen-age pregnancy prevention programs geared toward males. Someone must teach these young men how to be responsible and how to go about earning a reasonable living.

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