Fatherhood and the Meaning of Children: An Ethnographic Study Among Puerto Rican Partners of Adolescent Mothers


  • Jennifer Foster CNM, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Jennifer Foster, CNM, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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Jennifer Foster, CNM, PhD, School of Nursing, Arnold House, The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. E-mail: jwfoster@nursing.umass.edu


This study of the male partners of adolescent mothers was conducted in a small urban city in the northeastern United States where adolescent birth rates remain high despite declining national trends. Despite stated opposition to adolescent birth, one third of the fathers interviewed planned their pregnancies with their partners for more than a year. Because poverty and violence were part of life in the community of these fathers, the experience of having children initiated self-reflection. Men did not value absence from their children's lives, and they recognized their own agency in constructing a fatherless reality for their children. Thus, having children gave men an opportunity to consider alternative possibilities for their lives. This study suggests that despite widespread efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy, children born to adolescent mothers provide the fathers of these children with an affirming and valued component of self-identity.