A wider age interval would not capture appreciably more men with teenage partners. The behavior of adult men who father children with minors is often looked at as "deviant" and representative of problem behavior and psychosocial deficits that may reduce their earning potential and personal stability, making such men less desirable partners to adult women. On the other hand, an older man involved in a sexual and childbearing relationship with a minor may possess developmental or psychosocial deficits that directly reduce his earning potential and other aspects of his attractiveness as a partner. Older partners' later stage in the life course probably explains at least some of their observed earning advantage. Interventions that would prevent very young adolescents from becoming sexually involved with much older men are clearly warranted.
On the other hand, an older man involved in a sexual and childbearing relationship with a minor may possess developmental or psychosocial deficits that directly reduce his earning potential and other aspects of his attractiveness as a partner. This issue of developmental differences is particularly troubling for the youngest mothers in the NMIHS sample, who are most likely to have partners five or more years older. That births to unmarried minors who have substantially older partners represent a relatively small portion of all U. These births make up a small share of all teenage childbearing. The context of childbearing also differed significantly for the adult and adolescent mothers with a partner aged Finally, data about the male partner is limited by the female respondent's recollections and by the accuracy of what she was told i. The higher levels of prior childbearing and alcohol use among women younger than 18 who have an older partner suggest involvement in behavior generally associated with precocious adulthood. The analysis by Landry and Forrest used the same data set. However, when we compare older men who father children with minors to their peers who father children with adult women, the men having relationships with adolescents appear to be less desirable partners, since they have comparatively lower earning potential and less established relationships. Policymakers need to pay attention to broader means of reducing teenage childbearing, such as sexuality education, youth development and contraceptive services. For example, poverty or other negative home situations may lead young women to look to an adult man for rescue or escape. Among fathers aged who had a child in , 1. Finally, those few adult men who become involved with considerably younger women may respond to incentives and disincentives to fathering a child with a minor. Adult women were also nearly twice as likely as minors to report that their pregnancy was wanted. Although these findings about the youngest mothers raise questions about sexual abuse, that issue cannot be addressed directly with these data. In addition, having sexual relations and a child with an older partner can itself be defined as problem behavior, and problem behaviors often occur together or are correlated with one another. These are not included in Table 1. Alternatively, if older men are viewed as providing a way out of poverty or other undesirable home situations, adolescents may be more likely to establish close relationships with these older men, who potentially have more economic resources available to them than younger men. Why Hasn't Prevention Worked? Finally, how do the socioeconomic characteristics of the older men who father children with minors differ from those of other adult fathers, and from those of younger fathers? Although such laws have had a long history in the United States, they had fallen into disuse in the last few decades, 8 and only recently have some states revived and expanded these laws as part of efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy and related public welfare costs. What Kind of Relationships? Although men who fathered a child with an adult woman were, on average, 2. Young women's economic vulnerability suggests that for some, older men may be more desirable partners than teenage men. For a more detailed description of statutory provisions prohibiting sexual relationships between minors and adults in all 50 states, see reference 3, Table 1. Since we were able to examine only cross-sectional measures, however, the extent to which these differences are due solely to age and whether they will persist over the long term are both unknown. Second, focusing on fathers who are substantially older than the year-old mother—at least five years—also reduces the numbers involved.
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