Gender vulnerability for parenthood among male adolescents

OBJECTIVE: To analyze gender relations perceived by male adolescents and how they contribute to making them more vulnerable to pregnancy during adolescence. METHODS: Qualitative study carried out in Campo Grande, Midwestern Brazil, in 2003. Subjects were 13 male adolescents under 20 years of age, fathers of an only child aged up to 11 months whose mother was in the same age group as them. Semi-structured interviews were carried out, tape recorded and transcribed. Thematic content analysis was carried out. RESULTS: Gender stereotypes were identified in which the role of leader, provider, and sexually active was stressed and the role of caregiver was rejected. These roles seemed consolidated especially in the subjects' perspective regarding paid employment as a marker of their male condition as well as of a family provider. Adolescents' leadership prevailed in the relationship with the mother of their child especially in taking initiative in sexual intercourse and the use of contraceptives. They considered that pregnancy was unexpected and happened "by chance". However, fatherhood was experienced as a definite evidence of their status as adult men. CONCLUSIONS: Male adolescents showed to be vulnerable to fatherhood due to gender socialization following traditional patterns. This was evidenced by the inexistence of roles related to self care and care for others, and early playing roles of male sexual dominance, of father and family provider in order to grow up and become a man.

Adolescent behavior; Paternity; Gender identity; Pregnancy, unplanned; Vulnerability; Qualitative research


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