More Kiwi boys becoming dads

BY KEITH LYNCH
Last updated 17:37 22/02/2009

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Young boys are becoming fathers at alarming rates, with the number of dads aged under 15 rapidly rising.

In 2007, there were 15 new fathers in New Zealand aged under 15 up from four in 2006.

The figures emerged in the wake of revelations a baby-faced 13-year-old British boy had become a father.

There were also a record 54 15-year-old fathers in 2007, Statistics New Zealand figures revealed.

The figures showed there had been 14 11-year-old mothers in New Zealand since 1962.

In 2007, there was one 12-year-old mother and six 13-year-old mums.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the number of young teen fathers was shocking.

"Children having sex under the age of 16 aren't emotionally or physically ready, and they certainly aren't emotionally or physically ready to be having babies."

However, Bennett said stopping young teens having children was impossible.

Jonathan Young, a support worker with the Father and Child Trust, said the figures were no surprise.

Young, who has worked with teen fathers as young as 14, said that it is "only recently in Western society that it's been scandalous to have a baby at 15 or 16".

"The rest of the world does it all the time and certainly a lot of the young people we work with are perfectly capable of raising a child, and I know a lot of 15 and 16-year-old parents that are a hell of a lot better than 40-year-old parents."

Young said a lot of the teen fathers had used the experience to "turn their life around".

"I haven't had any negative ones," he said.

"They're all very positive about being fathers and most of the guys that have been through here, if they have had a questionable past they've used the idea of becoming a father to turn their life around or go back to school or get a job."

Young men sometimes became fathers as their partners had decided to have a baby, Young said.

"From our experience here, the young mums have decided they want to have a baby.

"Sometimes it's an accident, and sometimes the girls are a little bit older than the boys and feel that they're able to cope with the baby."

However, senior Canterbury University psychology lecturer Dr Mark Byrd said young teenagers would make terrible fathers.

"They make crappy parents. They tend to have unrealistic expectations.

"People who are young tend to think `my baby will be perfect'.

"They think, `my baby is not going to cry', they think, `my baby is going to come toilet-trained'.

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"They don't think of consequences. They have unrealistic expectation. The more life experiences you have, the better off you are as a parent.

"A 15-year-old doesn't plan ahead. The frontal lobes which do a lot of planning ahead don't really get fully formed until a person reaches his twenties.

"They don't think of long-term consequences. They think of short-term goals.

"They think of the here and now."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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