Current Pediatric Research

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Teen fathers perceptions and experiences of fatherhood: A qualitative exploration with in-school teen fathers in a rural district in South Africa.

Background: Teen parenthood is a serious problem in South Africa and sub Saharan Africa. Research demonstrates that boys exposed to risk factors have an increased probability of fathering a child during their teenage years. However, there is paucity of studies on teen fathers relative to research on teen mothers. The aim of the study was to explore teen fathers’ perceptions and experiences of fatherhood. Methods: Twenty-five teenagers who fathered a child between 16-19 years participated in in-depth interviews. Teenagers were selected using purposive sampling from two high schools in a rural district in Limpopo Province, South Africa. NVivo data analysis software was used to facilitate data analysis of verbatim transcripts using thematic data analysis. Findings: Four themes emerged from the data; (a) reacting to being a teen father, (b) transition to becoming a father, (c) perception of self as a father, and (d) involvement with the child. Fatherhood came as a surprise to teen fathers who reacted with shock, denial, and fear. Their perceptions of good father were limited to a financial provider for the child. Most were transformed by the experience of being a father. They wanted to be good fathers and planned to complete school and get employment. The relationship with the child’s mother and lack of financial means to support the child were significant barriers to involvement in the life of their children. Conclusion: Given the high incidence of teenage pregnancy in South Africa, prevention of teen pregnancy interventions should design appropriate programs for teen fathers to prepare them to transition from teenagers to fatherhood. Healthcare professionals who engage with teen mothers during antenatal and post-natal care could use this opportunity to engage with teen fathers to empower them to cope with fatherhood.

Author(s): Sphiwe Madiba, Carol Nsiki