WASHINGTON, D.C. – Teenage fathers are more likely than other youth to commit delinquent acts, according to a new bulletin from the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Teenage fathers were also more likely to be involved in drug dealing, use alcohol or drop out of school.
"We might hope that fatherhood would encourage more responsibility from at-risk youth but the facts indicate otherwise," said OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik. "Instead fatherhood can exacerbate an already troubled and stressful life, making a bad situation worse. Not only do the fathers suffer, but so do their children, looking to them as role models, establishing a cycle of problems that damages the whole community."
Teenage Fatherhood and Delinquent Behavior includes an analysis of studies of urban males in Pittsburgh and Rochester. The Pittsburgh study found that 62 teenagers, 12 percent of the sample, became fathers before their 19th birthday. The study found that these 62 youth fathered a total of 82 children. Fatherhood occurred as early as age 14 with the rate rising steadily to age 18.
The study then compared these youth with 62 other similar youth. Seventy-two percent of the fathers had a court petition alleging delinquency, compared to 41 percent of the other youth. Thirty-nine percent of the fathers were involved in frequent alcohol use compared to 19 percent for non-fathers. Forty-one percent of the fathers were involved in drug dealing compared to 21 percent of non-fathers and 60 percent of the fathers dropped out of school compared with 37 percent of the non-fathers. The greatest differences between the fathers and the other youth were for more covert delinquent acts, such as burglary. There was no difference between the fathers and the other youth for violent crimes.
The Pittsburgh study also found that many of the same risks that can lead to delinquency, such as drug use, low school achievement and low socioeconomic status, are also likely to lead to teenage fatherhood. In addition, 19 percent of the youth classified as high- rate delinquents became fathers as compared to 9 percent of the low-rate delinquents and non-delinquent youth.
The Rochester study also found a correlation between teenage fatherhood, delinquency and drug use. Seventy percent of the young people examined that were classified as high-frequency drug-users became fathers, compared to 24 percent of the low-frequency user and non-users. Forty-seven percent of the young people classified as high-rate delinquents became fathers, compared to 23 percent of the low-rate delinquents and the non-delinquents.
The Pittsburgh and Rochester studies are part of OJJDP's Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency. Since OJJDP launched this program in 1986, it has issued bulletins on different risks that can lead to delinquency including family disruption, child maltreatment and gang involvement. The bulletin includes a listing of resources for teen fathers including phone numbers and Website addresses.
Teenage Fatherhood and Delinquent Behavior and information about other OJJDP publications, programs and conferences are available through the OJJDP Website at www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org and from OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/638-8736.
Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and program offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.
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