9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Timescapes Building II, Auditório B1.04

The making of men and fathers within a qualitative longitudinal study of life transition, masculinities and fatherhood

In recent years men´s role within and outside the family has been subject to much public debate in the UK and beyond, with expectations apparently increasing in terms of fathers´ involvement or participation in family life. The socio-political context in which such debates about the practices and meanings of fatherhood, and their associated masculinities, are taking place is characterised by widely voiced concerns about the implications of changing family configurations for the resourcing of families with dependents (especially children). Widespread cultural discourses circulating about the need for responsible fathering/parenting also potentially serve to intensify the idea that there is a lack of commitment to relationships of caring for, and sharing with, others, that needs to be rectified. From a contrasting perspective, though, such debates about contemporary fathering can be a way of questioning aspects of masculine subjectivity, so that it is no longer assumed to be valued over and above femininity in respect of the cultural ideals they signify and express (independence, separation and detachment from others over relationships and connection, for example).

In our presentation, we report on a study in which both perspectives on fatherhood, masculinities and questions about change inform our efforts to investigate what it means to be a man and a father in (British) society today. Our central research question is "to what extent are men´s identities being refashioned within transforming gender relations, family relationships, and socio-cultural change?" Data comes from qualitative interviews with men before they became fathers, twice during the first year afterwards and a recent follow-up eight years later as part of the Timescapes network. The longitudinal design means that the men have passed through a major period of life transition, and reached a different time and place in their life trajectories.

Our aim is to work through the implications of these inquiries for understanding the social and psychological effects, in and through time, of a situation in which involvement, participation, and responsibility have been set up as a nexus of contemporary ideas that are considered to represent aspirational and/or normative identities for men and fathers.