Young Unwed Fathers : Changing Roles and Emerging Policies.

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Lerman, Robert I.
Ooms, Theodora J.
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One in five children in the United States is born to an unwed mother. Fifty-three percent of children supported by welfare have unmarried parents. While public attention has focused almost solely on unwed mothers, an emerging new interest in unwed fathers is being fueled largely by sensational anecdotes and stereotypes. This volume is the first to bring together a wide and balanced array of research perspectives on unwed fatherhood. Sixteen essays - all but one of which are original to this volume - describe unwed fathers' characteristics and behavior, examine policies to enforce child support, assess programs designed to help unwed fathers assume parental responsibility, and discuss the legal and ethical rights and obligations of unwed fathers. New research is presented that examines the patterns, causes, and consequences of unwed fatherhood. Two of the essays focus on young men in New York City and Philadelphia. The comprehensive studies presented here review male involvement in unwed parenting from pre-parenthood sexual behavior, through pregnancy/abortion/ adoption decisions, to the social and economic aspects of raising an out-of-wedlock child. Irresponsible "macho" stereotypes of unwed teenage fathers are both challenged and confirmed. The Family Support Act of 1988 and other emerging state and federal policies that involve welfare, employment, and child support are discussed in terms of the implications for unwed fathers. Some essays analyze programs that promote financial stability and thus parental responsibility for unwed fathers. Relying on research ranging from national surveys to rich ethnographies, the contributors provide new knowledge and insights to the public debate about welfare reform, paternity and child support, and family values. (Author abstract)

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