When African teenagers become fathers: culture, materiality and masculinity.

Culture, health & sexuality

PubMedID: 24592896

Bhana D, Nkani N. When African teenagers become fathers: culture, materiality and masculinity. Cult Health Sex. 2014;.
Between 1996 and 2010, the percentage of African children living with their fathers in South Africa dropped from 44% to 31%, with only a third of preschool children living with their parents. Concern about the spate of father absence and its effects on children's well-being has led to a growing focus on fathers in family interventions, although there is relative silence on teenage fathers. In this paper, we draw on an interview-based study with teenage fathers living under conditions of poverty to show how their understandings of fatherhood and constructions of provider masculinity intersect with cultural demands that express both weakness and power. In expressing the desire to care and be involved with their children, and aligning with patterns of masculinity that sought enhanced options for contraceptive use based on gender-equitable relationships, we show a new direction in the making of teenage fatherhood, diverging from hierarchical gender relations where men make the decisions. These changes, however, are limited by constructions of masculinity that contradictorily reinforce provider status, gender inequalities and male patterns of sexual entitlements within a context where teenage fathers are unable to achieve the cultural status of provider masculinity. Implications are discussed in the conclusion.