Fatherhood in context
: exploring men’s parenting in multiple settings

  • Jason Preston

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis draws upon ‘in-situ’ ethnographic research to explore how fatherhood is performed and perceived across various social settings. Using data collected through participant observations at ‘dad groups’, ‘go-along’ interviews and semi-structured interviews with fathers, this research highlights the nuanced practices performed by fathers in the care of their children, while drawing attention to the impact of social ‘space’, discursive expectations, and embodied factors in shaping fathers’ dispositions towards available and acceptable practices. Analysis of the data presents several key changes and continuities in the perceptions and practices of fatherhood. Findings across domestic, public, and groups settings suggests that men’s parental interactions appear to facilitate a partial blurring of traditional ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering’ practices. This is evident in greater involvement by fathers in hands-on, embodied practices of care, including cuddling, soothing, or feeding their child, where meanings of fatherhood appear to be founded upon notions of egalitarianism or ‘interchangeability’. However, traditional divisions of parental responsibilities were evident in relation to practices of ‘interactive’ care in leisure-based settings, including ‘father-only’ groups, with fathers retaining idealised responsibilities of moral guardianship and involvement in physical activities in conceptions of fathering practice. Traditional ideals were also present in conceptualisations of mothering practices, with female partners positioned in primary care roles, seemingly ‘choosing’ to fulfil the 24/7 responsibility of childcare. While it is argued that fathering practices are incorporating a greater sense of embodied care in men’s relationships with their children, these represent partial ‘glimpses’ of change. Reified perceptions of father involvement, as such, continue to present opportunities for fathers to ‘pick-and-choose’ parental roles and responsibilities, questioning men’s egalitarian ideals. Fathering practice appears to reflect the ‘bricolage’ identities of contemporary masculinity, incorporating caring ideals while retaining a sense of agency in how care is performed. This research, in sum, significantly advances the sociologies of fathering in revealing the ongoing complexity of the intersections between masculinity and fathering practices.
Date of AwardJan 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorMatthew Adams (Supervisor), Carl Walker (Supervisor) & Kyla Ellis-Sloan (Supervisor)

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