Stereotypes of Teenage Fathers: Deadbeats or Devoted?

Sheeran, N. (Griffith University), Jones, L. (Griffith University), Bernardin, S. (Griffith University), Wood, M. (Griffith University)

Stereotypes of teenage fathers in America suggest they are absent, criminal, and violent, with their identity tied to the role of breadwinner rather than parent. However, no research has investigated stereotypes of teenage fathers in Australia. We conducted three studies to explore societal stereotypes, and attitudes more broadly, of teenage fathers, including what characteristics drive the pervasively negative attitudes. Study 1 investigated attitudes towards teenage fathers, compared to teenage mothers and adult parents, demonstrating they are perceived least favourably. As conforming to typical gender roles tends to strengthen associations with competence for fathers, study 2 explored whether this held true for teenagers by investigating whether attitudes were less negative if they were perceived to be employed. They were not.  Study 3 explored whether the negative attitudes were because teenage parents are assumed to be low SES, or because they are teenagers. Overall, our findings suggested teenage fathers were perceived to lack maturity, morality, competence, warmth and capacity to parent, and they are perceived significantly less favourably than same aged peers, teenage mothers, adult parents and low SES people. Our findings corroborate teenage parent reports of feeling judged, highlighting the pervasiveness of the negativity.

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Gender and Prejudice