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Fam Plann Perspect. 1995 Jul-Aug;27(4):159-61, 165.

How old are U.S. fathers?

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Alan Guttmacher Institute, USA.


One in every six U.S. birth certificates have no information on the age of the baby's father; for more than four in 10 babies born to adolescent women, no data are available on the father's age. Information from mothers aged 15-49 who had babies in 1988 and were surveyed in the National Maternal and Infant Health Survey indicates that fathers for whom age is not reported on the birth certificate are considerably younger than other fathers. In 1988, 5% of fathers were under age 20, and 20% were aged 20-24. Fathers typically are older than mothers, especially when the mothers are teenagers. Fathers who are unmarried, black or partners of lower income women are younger than other fathers.


Although current programs promoting male involvement in pregnancy and child rearing are based on the assumption that the partners of pregnant teenagers are predominantly adolescents, there is a lack of data to support this claim. In 1991, the age of father was missing from 17% of all US birth certificates, and this omission was most prevalent for births to never-married women under 20 years of age. To obtain more complete information on the age of fathers, birth certificate data were supplemented with data from the 1989-91 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey. Although paternal age was missing from 11% of birth certificates, 98% of respondents reported the current age of their infant's father. Extrapolation from this data set suggests that 5% of the fathers of the 3,898,922 live-born infants in 1988 were teenagers compared to 12% of the mothers. Among fathers who had no age listed on the birth certificate but for whom questionnaire data were available, 16% were under 20 years old compared with 3% of those for whom age was listed. Only 35% of fathers of infants born to teenagers were also under 20 years of age. Overall, fathers tended to be two years older than mothers; however, 60% of 15-17 year olds and 50% of 18-19 year olds had a partner who was three years older and 20% of all teenage mothers had a partner six or more years older. The age differential was greatest for teenage parents who were not high school graduates. These findings suggest that programs seeking to prevent teenage pregnancy or increase male responsibility for children must target older, out-of-school males as well as adolescents.

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