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|'Men as Fathers' - Timescapes project|
On 17th October 2011 Professor Karen Henwood was an invited panel discussant at an event held in London. The event on “Fathers, migration and transmission” was organised by Professor Julia Brannan, Institute of Education.
It was good for the MaF project to be represented at this event as, like a number of the presenters, we have been analysing fathering across generations and asking questions about intergenerational transmissions.
To make sense of their own biographical transformations, participants in our study have often reflected on connections and disconnections they perceived between different generations of fathers. We have been discussing this research finding in relation to contemporary ideas about involved fatherhood and what it requires of men: that they address aspects of their experiences and memories of relationships that are affectively charged and personally challenging and that they work through the kinds of investments they make in ideas of fatherhood and forms of masculinity – not once and for all but dynamically in and through time.
A number of methodological issues arose in the course of the discussions at the event in London. These are all ones that we have been addressing to some extent in our own project:
- Focussing on the past can open up new perspectives on, and questions, about the present
- By focussing in on both changes in the present and how they work out in the long term qualitative longitudinal studies can enable an intense engagement between researchers and their subject matter.
- Social transformations, generational transmissions and biographical transitions are mutually implicated.
- What is ethically permissible in research is a matter of convention; changes in ethical practices over time may not always lead to better research.
- Studies of parenting transitions suggest that it is important to be alert to the heat that is associated with disruptions to people’s imagined futures and life planning.
The MAF research team gave a presentation at a conference hosted by the Timescapes network in London on 13th June 2011. The conference was on “Understanding and Supporting Families Over Time”. Our presentation was called “Strengthening Men’s Involvement in Fathering : Opportunities and Challenges” . We discussed the potential value of our research work charting men’s experiences over time in relation to their lives with others for policy making and for professional practictioners working with families. A well illustrated policy briefing on our work was also made available as a short brochure at the event. Two politicians gave presentations on their work on the following day. Frank Field MP spoke about his review of poverty and life chances and preventing poor children from becoming poor adults and parents. Graham Allen MP spoke about his campaign for government to promote “Early Interventions” to intervene in intergenerational cycles of deprivation. It was interesting to be able to pose questions to them based on our work: Karen Henwood asked the following question of Graham Allen. “In yesterday’s sessions presenting findings and implications from research we heard a lot about intergenerational transmissions and good parenting. I would like to ask Graham a question about the contributions men can make to family life and parenting linked to these themes, since this is something we have been looking at in our research. We now know quite a lot about men’s responsiveness to changes in family culture - in particular how they recognise that they need to be more involved in family life (including the sharing and caring) – and about a whole raft of practical barriers complicating this. But we also need to find out more about the intergenerational transmission of troubled and troubling aspects of masculinity. This is of concern to society more widely, and was made apparent to us by a number of the fathers who are taking part in our study. And it is a matter that cuts across differences in family socioeconomic circumstances as there are at least two types of masculinity to be considered here – workaholism and macho masculinity. Some of the men in our study talked about the vexed nature of the transmissions they experienced of workaholic models of fathering, which they remembered from their own father’s way of fathering. Others were worried about the transmission of macho masculinity as their own fathers had not been a wanted presence in the home and had demanded that their sons go into men’s jobs. These might be considered intergenerationally transmitted aspects of men’s ‘classed masculinities’. The MAF project team would be interested to hear if these kinds of issues have featured in your own thinking?”
The ‘Personal and Public Lives’ conference took place between 7th and 9th September 2010 at the University of Huddersfield. Carrie writes about her experience at this event. I attended the personal and public lives conference to hear more about research being conducted in the UK and internationally from ‘person centred’ perspectives and to speak about the MAF’s ongoing work on affective flows and intergenerational transmission. The topics covered at this interdisciplinary and international conference were incredibly broad and drew from a wide theoretical and practical knowledge base. Highlights for me included talks by Ann Hodson, Gayle Letherby and plenaries by Professor Jenny Hockey and Professor Eleanor Krassen Covan. Topics covered in these talks spanned a range of personal and public contexts. Issues discussed included social workers’ experiences of child protection and pre-birth assessment; researchers’ auto/biographical reflections on studying pregnancy and early motherhood; and insights into the study of death, dying, bereavement and disposal. At the same time, the conference provided a space for researchers to consider the multiple common threads running through our theoretical perspectives and research methodologies e.g. social relationships, divisions and inequalities, epistemologies and practices of care, life course issues, and a concern for affective and emotional dimensions of personal and public lives. I particularly liked the way the sessions and plenaries were academically engaging and yet intimate enough to draw participants into the discussions in profoundly affective, emotional and personal ways. I was moved many times by the speakers' experiences and accounts and I've been encouraged to re-examine aspects of my own personal biography and the complex ways it interconnects with and energises my particular academic and research experiences. Concepts that resonated with the MAF project during the conference included a focus on ‘care sharing’ (rather than care giving) highlighting the inherent interdependencies and negotiations of caring relationships and their potential for sustaining and transforming subjectivity and identity. The importance of linking care at different stages of the life course was also seen as an important move for developing interdisciplinary research, practice and policy agendas. I thoroughly enjoyed attending the conference and especially the opportunity it provided to meet with other early career researchers who were passionate about exploring the interrelationships between personal and public relationships, roles and responsibilities in contemporary contexts. The icing on the cake was the wonderful Canalside East converted mill building which provided a stunning context for the event as well as prompting reflections on the dramatic shifts in personal and public lives in this particular corner of the world.
The 'Men as Fathers' Project are pleased to show you are latest document currently in print. The brochure talks about the key publications from the project and what our research is about.
Check it out and comment below!
The Research Team
One of the ways we are trying to engage with the public is through an initial leaflet to catch people's attention and create interest in our research.
These are currently being printed and we would love to know your thoughts on it.
Please comment below!
In our research we are keeping track of the different images that appear in the media about men and fathers, and the kinds of issues that are being written about them. Why are we doing this? One reason is that we think it is important to be able put what men say about their lived experiences and the thoughts they have about their lives in a wider cultural context where ideas and messages are being circulated about them. Two recent articles are about the Prime Minister of the UK becoming a father for a fourth time (BBC) and gun culture in the US – how to some this represents protecting the child, whilst to others the child is seen at risk (Guardian). If you have any thoughts about what these images might be saying to us about the place of men and fathers in society today please let us know.
Hello and welcome to our BlogSpot! The ‘Men as Fathers’ Timescapes project is being carried out within the Cardiff University School of Social Sciences and is funded by the ESRC. The project looks at fathers’ roles in the family and how these are seen to have changed over time. This is considered in relation to cultural ideals of the ‘new father’ who is involved in hands on caring for his children and spending more time with the family. The project further considers how fathers negotiate their role through time in relation to their aspirations, fears, goals, wishes and desires. We also consider how masculinity is negotiated through different points in historical time as ideal forms of masculinity have changed in and between classes and cultures. We will be using the BlogSpot to provide updates on our research as well as our dissemination of the research findings. Very shortly we will be posting our leaflet and brochure that are currently in the making for opinions on whether people find them engaging and interesting to read. Look forward to hearing from you all soon. The 'Men as Fathers' Team. (Professor Karen Henwood, Carrie Coltart and Fiona Shirani)
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