Immoral, incompetent, and lacking warmth: How stereotypes of teenage fathers compare to those of other parents

Nicola Sheeran, Liz Jones, Stacey Bernardin, Martin Wood, Leisa Doherty

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Constructions of teenage fathers largely portray them as absent, criminal, and violent (Johansson and Hammarén 2014; Kiselica and Kiselica 2014), with their identity tied to the role of breadwinner rather than parent. Although teenage fathers report being judged and belittled, little is known about societally held stereotypes toward teenage fathers. With samples of participants in Australia, we conducted three studies, based on the Stereotype Content Model, to explore societal stereotypes, and attitudes more broadly, of teenage fathers, including factors that may influence attitudes. Study 1 (n = 177) investigated attitudes toward teenage fathers, compared to teenage mothers and adult parents, demonstrating they were perceived least favorably. Study 2 (n = 94) explored whether the attitudes and stereotypes of teenage fathers held by university students were similar or different to those of men who are low SES and male adolescents. We found that, similar to male adolescents in general, teenage fathers were seen as lacking maturity and that, similar to men who are low SES, stereotypes were contemptuous. We did not find expected differences in perceived morality. Finally, Study 3 (n = 462) explored whether attitudes toward teenage fathers were less negative if they were perceived to be employed. They were not. Overall, our findings suggested teenage fathers are perceived to lack maturity, morality, competence, warmth, and capacity to parent. Whether they were employed or not made little difference to people’s perceptions. Our findings suggest that stereotypes of teenage fathers are largely contemptuous, which can be internalized by teenage fathers and may reduce their help-seeking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-375
Number of pages16
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Competence
  • Gender roles
  • Morality
  • Social evaluations
  • Stereotypes
  • Teenage fathers
  • Teenage parents
  • Warmth

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