'16 And Pregnant': Why Father Involvement Is Crucial To A Child's Development

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By Lauren Mann of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

On this week's episode of "16 and Pregnant," Arianna spoke openly about growing up with an absent father. Her mom was only 17 when Arianna was born and her dad left when she was just a baby, which was one of the main reasons her mom was so disappointed when Arianna followed in her footsteps and got pregnant at 16.

The children of teen parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves, creating a cycle of poverty, low educational achievement and many other social challenges. But Arianna was determined to give her son, Aiden, the life she never had. Aiden’s father -- Arianna's on-and-off boyfriend, Maurice -- also grew up without his father around, and both of them wanted to make sure Aiden would have two parents who could love and care for him, even if the two of them weren’t together.

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The majority of teen mothers are unmarried when their children are born, but even those who do marry often split up within five years after the birth. But having a father is crucial to the development of a child. Studies show that having a high quality relationship with the father can reduce behavioral issues, and make the child less likely to drop out of school, abuse alcohol or drugs, or end up in jail.

When her episode ended, Arianna wasn't sure what the future would hold for her and Maurice as a couple, but she did know a few things for sure: She wanted to finish high school, continue her education and become a nurse. She also wanted to give Aiden everything he deserves -- including a relationship with his dad.

For more on this episode, take a look at the episode discussion guide at Stay Teen.org. Plus, visit MTV's It's Your Sex Life website for info on teen pregnancy and sexual health.