How Many of the Offspring Born to Teenage Fathers are Produced by Repeat Serious Delinquents?

Evelyn Wei, University of Pittsburgh
Rolf Loeber, University of Pittsburgh
Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, University of Pittsburgh

Background: Recent studies have found an association between teenage fatherhood and delinquency. Yet, it is not clear whether there is a dose-response relationship between the severity of delinquency and teenage fatherhood. This paper quantifies the public health ipact of serious delinquency on the risk of impregnation and teenage fatherhood among urban, adolescent males.

Methods: Using data up to age 19, rates of sexual activity, impregnation and fatherhood are compared among three groups: minor/non-delinquents, moderate delinquents, and repeat serious delinquents.

Results: The results demonstrate a dose-response relationship between delinquency and age of onset of sexual activity, whereby more serious delinquents began having sex at younger ages. Rates of impregnation and fatherhood were twice as high among repeat serious delinquents as compared to moderate and minor/non-delinquents. Repeat serious delinquents were also more likely than others to father multiple children; of the children produced by teenage fathers in this study, 65% were fathered by repeat serious delinquents. Using epidemiologic measures of association, almost 40% of teenage fatherhood int he total population appeared attributable to repeated serious delinquency. By age 19, repeat serious delinquents continued to be at greater risk for fathering children, as they were continuing to have unsafe sex more frequently and with more partners.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that efforts to prevent or intervene on serious juvenile delinquency are also likely to affect the occurrence of teenage fatherhood, as well as delinquency in future generations.

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Updated 05/20/2006