Gender Differences in Parenting and Relationship Challenges, Needs, and Values for Young Parents

August 12, 2014

Adolescent parenting couples face many obstacles as they try to balance being both a partner and a parent.  This qualitative ARCH study set out to better understand the types of challenges young parents face as well as their values and needs related to both parenting and relationships.  Differences between men and women were also examined across these themes.

Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 35 participants (17 women and 18 men).  Fifty-four percent were Black, 34% Hispanic, and 12% White. The average age was 23 for females and 24 for males.  Participants were asked about parenting and relationships, including questions about defining ideal relationships and parenting characteristics, argument triggers and parenting stressors, ways to improve relationships, and parenting topics they would like to learn more about.

Across the 3 major themes of relationship and parenting challenges, needs, and values, several key differences and similarities emerged between men and women.  For women, the main relationship challenges reported were family interference and unbalanced parenting, which the men also cited.  However, men reported feeling disrespected and limited finances as their most common relationship challenges.  Relationship values and needs were consistent across both genders.  Trust, communication, and honesty were all valued in relationships and areas for relationship need included improving communication and understanding the impact of negative relationships on current relationships.

In terms of parenting, men and women reported different parenting challenges:  unbalanced parenting, child safety, and feeling unprepared to parent were the most common concerns for women, while limited finances was the most common concern for men.  Similar to relationships, both genders agreed on parenting values and needs.  Quality time with their children and family morals were valued in parenting for both men and women.  Learning child discipline techniques and increasing knowledge about child development were cited as parenting topics they would like to learn more about.

It is evident that young parents want to learn more about improving their relationships and parenting skills. Our findings suggest that these themes are the most salient for adolescent parents and partners.  Future interventions for young parents should strive to include topics on relationship and parenting challenges, values, and needs.

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