The Right Thing to Do. How Post-Divorce Fatherhood is Morally Reasoned from the Viewpoint of Everyday Life
Department of Social Work Research University of Tampere Tampere, Finland
In the Nordic countries as in Finland, policy development and ideological support for post-divorce parenting have been promoted. However, authorities have strongly been criticised of discrimination against fathers in custodial decisions. Divorced men themselves have also become more active in demanding their rights. The voices of men´s activism have been heard in public debates, but little is known about average divorced men´s opinions.
Moral reasoning, which is connected to norms, values and evaluation of social situations, has a central position in contested family situations like the divorce. This study aims to capture the moral codes that divorced men themselves give to post-divorce fatherhood. Moral reasoning deals with questions of right or wrong, good or bad. What kind of processes of moral reasoning are being used in talking about post-divorce fatherhood? What aspects and issues is the moral reasoning anchored to? The focus is on moral norms, values and rights and the possible plurality of moral reasoning related to post-divorce fatherhood.
The research data was preliminary gathered as a part of a home study, which aims to capture the meanings of a home to divorced men. The data consists of interviews by Finnish non-activist divorced fathers, who were interviewed several times. The data also includes photographs taken by the men themselves and men´s home life history lines. Fathers´ moral reasoning was analysed from the viewpoint of gender, focusing to the ways that masculinities intersect with other social divisions such as age, ability, social class and local culture.
The study shows that post-divorce fatherhood was ambiguously reasoned in the context of societal and cultural moral codes as well as moral conclusions based on personal life. Instead of advocating men´s rights, the divorced fathers shed light on moral norms from the viewpoint of everyday life. Moral reasoning was connected with ordinariness and continuity. The best interest of a child was a basic element of men´s argumentation. Fathers´ moral reasoning was intertwined with the micropractices of everyday life, such as decisions about things and spaces after divorce.