Pathways to Parenthood: A Qualitative Study of Young Puerto Rican Men's Fathering Roles and Attitudes Open Access

Divya, Sarah (2015)

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Background: Low-income and Latino communities in the U.S. have higher rates of teen pregnancy, extramarital parenting and blended families than other ethnicities or better-off cohorts. Parenting research in these communities has predominantly focused on women and often depicts men negatively. This analysis takes advantage of a rich qualitative dataset to explore the fathering trajectories of Puerto Rican young men in low-income urban communities.

Methods: We analyzed sexual and relationship life history interview data from the Philadelphia and Hartford Research on Education and Sexual Health Communication (PHRESH.comm) project. We used thematic analysis to understand the experiences of 18 young adult (18-25) Puerto Rican men who father biological children and/or acted as fathers to their partners' children from a prior union.

Results: Participants described three different parenting trajectories. Some fathers had biological children with one partner and were still together. A second group of men had biological children in a relationship that ended, and then had biological children with a subsequent partner. The third group had biological children in a relationship that ended, and then re-partnered with a woman with children from a prior relationship; they then went on to have biological children together. The analysis shows that having children strengthens men's relationship with their partners, and highlights that fatherhood is an important part of men's identity. Being a good father meant being able to provide for their children. Their stories also show that men's relationship with children from a prior relationship may be strongly mediated by the child's mother.

Discussion: These findings echo the literature on young Puerto Rican fathers showing that men gain self-worth from parenting and put importance on providing for their children, but deviate from literature that portrays these men as absent fathers. This is evident in men's description of the "gatekeeping" role that mothers can play between men and their children once a relationship has ended, particularly if the couple was not married. The analysis highlights the importance of promoting programs and policies that enhance men's ability to stay connected with their children from relationships that have ended, especially as the prevalence of blended families increases.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction... 1

Chapter 2: Background... 4

Parenting: Motherhood and Fatherhood... 4

Historical Context... 7

Teen and Extramarital Pregnancy among Latinos... 8

Barriers to Marriage and Outcomes: Extramarital Fertility and Co-parenting... 10

Male Desire to Parent... 11

The Ideal Latino Male Parent... 13

Parenting and Co-parenting in Blended Families from the Father Perspective... 15

Exploring the Stereotypes or Ideas about Young Latino Fathers... 17

Benefits to Children from Father Involvement... 18

An Exploration into the Trajectories to Fatherhood... 19

Chapter 3: Methods... 20

Data... 20

Design... 20

Analysis... 22

Chapter 4: Results... 24

Description of the Data... 24

Planned Pregnancies... 25

Unintended Pregnancies... 26

Moving On... 31

Maternal "Gatekeeping"... 35

Chapter 5: Discussion and Recommendations... 37

References... 45

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