The talk of unwed adolescent fathers of Mexican origin: A discourse analysis

Jose Arturo Jaime, University of Texas at El Paso


Since the 1970s, changing family and marriage trends in the United States have led to a dramatic 41% increase in the rate of unwed parents also known as fragile families, i.e., those at high risk of living in poverty and/or disintegrating (McLanahan, Garfinkel, Mincy, & Donahue, 2013, p.3). By 2011, more than 20 million children (28%) lived in biological father-absent homes and one-fourth, or five million, of these children were Hispanic of any race (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Recent studies suggest a clear disparity in cognitive, behavioral and health outcomes for children who live with single or cohabiting parents when compared to their counterparts. The dominant discourse of fatherhood—which is used to shape public policy, interventions and social services—rarely includes those most directly affected: the fathers. The aim of this study was to apply Gee's theory and method (2011) for discourse analysis to arrive at a theory of how unwed, adolescent fathers of Mexican origin (UAFMO) discursively talk about fatherhood and how this talk aims to attain self-defined social goods (e.g., power, status, recognition). Face to face, semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants who were unwed biological fathers of one or more children, 18 or 19 years old, reported a Mexican origin and spoke either English or Spanish. The interview data was analyzed using Gee's 42 questions for discourse analysis and revealed similar discourses and cultural models used by participants seeking to be recognized as legitimate, involved and responsible fathers. These findings provide insight for policy makers and service providers by contributing to the literature on biological father absence, fragile families and child wellbeing, and teenage pregnancy from the adolescent father's perspective.

Subject Area

Social work|Latin American Studies|Public health|Individual & family studies|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Jaime, Jose Arturo, "The talk of unwed adolescent fathers of Mexican origin: A discourse analysis" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3682466.