Indexed on: 29 May '10Published on: 29 May '10Published in: International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology
This study examined ecological risk factors associated with teen paternity in a sample of 2,931 male adolescents coming to the attention of juvenile courts across five midwestern counties. In contrast to previous studies documenting significantly higher rates of teen paternity among African American youth, we found that the European American court-involved youth in our sample were as likely to be teen fathers as their African American counterparts. However, an in-depth examination of the social ecologies of these court-involved youth revealed significant racial differences (regardless of the paternity status), with African American males reporting more prior offenses, delinquent peer associations, traumatic pasts, risky sexual behaviors, and educational risks as compared to European American youth, who reported greater involvement in substance use. Furthermore, logistic regression analyses revealed that after controlling for age and racial background, youth who reported greater exposure to trauma and prior offenses had significantly greater odds of having fathered a child. Surprisingly, youth who were teen fathers reported lower rates of behavioral problems as compared to their nonfathering peers. Given the cross-sectional nature of our data, interpretation of this result is limited. Overall, our findings underscore the need for developing a comprehensive understanding of the ecological risk and protective factors present in the lives of teen fathers coming in contact with the juvenile justice system, as an essential first step in designing effective and relevant intervention programs and services for this at-risk population.