Moratorial fathering
: enduring sustained uncertainty in the transition to premature fatherhood

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In comparison to the extensive focus of research on the maternal experiences of premature birth, empirical evidence exploring the experience of premature fatherhood is limited. Unless healthcare professionals understand the process of transition to premature fatherhood, they may not be able to effectively support fathers during the admission of their baby to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and following discharge home, and the provision of high quality family-centred care may be compromised.

    The aim of this study was to generate an explanatory theory that provides an interpretative understanding of how fathers experience becoming a parent of a preterm infant. The social and psychological processes involved in becoming a preterm father were examined using Constructivist Grounded Theory. The study recruited seven fathers following the admission of their preterm infant to a NICU in the South-East of England over 18 months. Data generation involved: eight hours of intensive interviews with seven fathers following admission to the NICU through a process of purposive and theoretical sampling; and five hours of intensive interviews with three of the seven fathers following discharge home. Data generation and analysis were undertaken concurrently by initially coding using “gerunds”, followed by focused coding. Memo writing during the constant comparative method enabled the conceptualisation of premature fatherhood and the construction of a substantive grounded theory.

    The findings suggest that fathers of preterm infants are enduring sustained uncertainty. The study offers a substantive theory grounded in the data that is located in, and further expounds, formal theories of uncertainty. It provides new insights into the social process of transition to premature fatherhood, which requires preterm fathers to manage the sustained uncertainty of premature birth by eliciting strategies that enable them to endure this unfamiliar, ‘novel’ and stressful situation.
    Date of AwardMar 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorJulie Scholes (Supervisor), Nina Stewart (Supervisor) & Catherine Theodosius (Supervisor)


    • Fatherhood
    • Neonatal Intensive Care
    • Moratorial Fathering
    • Negotiating Boundaries
    • Surveyancing
    • Constructivist Grounded Theory

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