A Qualitative Study of the Meaning of Fatherhood Among Young Urban Fathers

Authors

  • Celeste A. Lemay,

    1. R.N., M.P.H., is Research Nurse Coordinator, Office of Community Programs, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts
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  • Suzanne B. Cashman,

    1. Sc.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts
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  • Dianne S. Elfenbein,

    1. M.D., is the Director of Adolescent Medicine, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri
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  • Marianne E. Felice

    1. M.D., is Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts.
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Celeste A. Lemay, Office of Community Programs, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Avenue North, Benedict Building, Room A3-110, Worcester, MA 01655-0002. E-mail: celeste.lemay@umassmed.edu

Abstract

ABSTRACT Objective: To explore the beliefs, attitudes, and needs young men have regarding their role as a father.

Design and Sample: Exploratory, descriptive, qualitative design. Young fathers/young expectant fathers were recruited from service sites within a city in Massachusetts. Men were considered young fathers/young expectant fathers if they were or would be <20 years old at the birth of a first child or the mother of their baby was or would be <20 years old at the baby's birth and the young man was <25 years old.

Measures: Participants were interviewed utilizing open-ended questions, which included the following: the characteristics of good fathers, goals/needs for self and child, and whether or not they planned to raise the child as their father raised them and why.

Results: Responses regarding fathering clustered into the following themes: being available; providing support; and self-improvement, including completing education and becoming a positive role model. Forty-seven percent believed that being employed or finishing school would help them be better fathers; 77% reported they would not raise their child as their own father had raised them, citing physical and/or emotional abuse/abandonment.

Conclusions: Young men in this study identified several challenges to being “good” fathers. These included lack of employment, education, and positive role models.

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