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Teenage fathers: culture, sexuality and masculinity in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

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This study examines teenagers’ experiences of fatherhood and how they understand their responsibilities and perform their roles as fathers. It is based on a qualitative study of 20 teenage fathers at two public high schools in the rural Ugu District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. All research participants were black African teenagers who identified as biological fathers. Five focus group discussions and 20 individual interviews were held. Dominant discourse often associates fatherhood with material provision, and motherhood with childcare and nurturing. The purpose of this study was to determine how impoverished teenage fathers living in a socioeconomically marginalised rural area negotiate fatherhood and its expectations, and how they navigate the socially defined standards of masculinity and fatherhood that are often expected of them. Throughout the study I draw on theory of masculinities to show how my respondents used context-specific norms of masculinity to make sense of their identities not only as fathers but also as men or boys. My findings highlight how negotiating fatherhood is a complex process through which teenage fathers uphold and/or oppose dominant forms of masculinity. Participants upheld the notion of father-as-provider and used it to define whether or not they were “real men”. In so doing, they were caught between dual identities of being children and adults simultaneously: While they wanted to be seen as caring and supportive fathers (ideal adult men), upholding dominant forms of teenage masculinity through having multiple partners and partaking in risky behaviour was also important. The crux of their conundrum was the intersectionality of culture, context, and sexual risk—and this constitutes the core of my thesis.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.