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Adolescent fatherhood in New Zealand

14 June 2005

Boys raising babies; adolescent fatherhood in New Zealand

Adolescent fathers and their role in the lives of their children come under the spotlight in a book launched by Barnardos New Zealand in Wellington today.

In Boys Raising Babies, Massey University author/researcher Gareth Rouch “contributes to a neglected area of social research, policy, and service provision in New Zealand,” said Murray Edridge, the Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand at this evening’s launch.

“Teenage fathers generally don’t get good press,” said Murray. They’re often depicted as irresponsibly “sowing their wild oats”, avoiding paternity by not having their names on the infant’s birth certificate, and opting out of the child’s life when the fun stops and the responsibilities begin.”

“Gareth’s research challenges all those assumptions and prejudices.”

“His research tells us these young fathers are just as capable as older men of approaching fatherhood with pride, love, and a commitment to nurture and do well for their offspring. They shed tears and express joy at their child’s birth; they turn their lives around emotionally and practically; they want their child to be proud of them; they want their child to have better opportunities than they had; and they reflect on the undesirability of physical punishment in the name of discipline.”

However, these young fathers face some formidable obstacles which we as a society need to reflect upon,” said Murray. “Relationships started without any thought of parenthood do not always mature into lifelong commitments. There is a significant chance of relationship breakdown, issues of sole parenting and contact arrangements which will need to be dealt with.”

“Generally, the young parents are still at school or in some sort of training and not ready for the role of breadwinner. As young people themselves they need support with the physical and emotional demands of parenting.”

A disturbing trend to emerge from Gareth’s research was the attitudes of many of the grandparents involved, added Murray, with only one set showing responsible and effective support to the young parents. Others reactions ranged through to criminal hostility.

“The evidence of Gareth’s research indicates a society which is not acting in the best interests of the newly born child in the way it treats that child’s young father. And that is a message which all agencies, government and non-government, working with children, young people and teenage parents, in particular, need to reflect upon.”

Boys Raising Babies may be purchased from Barnardos New Zealand, P O Box 6434, Wellington or log onto www.barnardos.org.nz

ENDS

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