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The Men as Fathers Project

Masculinities, identities & risk: Transition in the lives of men and fathers

The project is a social psychological and qualitative longitudinal investigation into transition and change in the lives of men as first-time fathers. ‘Men as Fathers’ is part of the ESRC qualitative longitudinal and UK distributed Timescapes study.

The current project draws on, and extends, an ESRC funded project on masculinities, identities and the transition to fatherhood (1999-2000). Findings from this previous project have highlighted how men understand and re-work their identities as men and fathers in light of changing cultural constructions of masculinity and fatherhood. The extended project will explore ways in which men interpret and account for their experiences of becoming a first-time father and any transformations this brings to bear on their identities, relationships and lives over time. Creative visual use of diverse cultural representations of men and fathers will provide a valuable historical contextualisation of biographical data, amongst other methodological benefits.

To shed light on critical turning points in men’s life histories (such as pregnancy, birth of child and changes to daily routines) and on the meaning and significance of biographical change, a carefully crafted qualitative longitudinal dataset will be generated and analysed. A substantive and methodologically innovative meta- and re-analysis of existing longitudinal data collected in Norfolk before and after the birth of a first child is being conducted to provide a more focused understanding of temporalities in the experiences of fathers over a time of intensive change in their lives. A fourth round of interviews with the same sample will provide a unique opportunity for a long-term follow up of the men as fathers almost a decade later. Widening the existing sample to include a more diverse cohort of first-time fathers will provide the means for comparative investigations across a geographically, socially and culturally diverse sample. Sample boosting at sweep four is to maintain and extend existing variation to include younger fathers, sociocultural and geographical variance (English and Welsh, urban and rural), socioeconomic diversity, and non-normative family structures (non resident fathers, for example).

The project is geared towards ‘scaling-up’ the reach, relevance and impact of studies of men’s sense-making and life transition within a range of theoretical, policy and practice arenas such as psychosocial, gender and life-course studies; parenting education; gender, welfare and citizenship; and also counselling and mental health.  

Indicative research questions include:

  • How do men interpret the changes in their relationships, identities and lives as they enter parenthood, and how do they understand and negotiate masculinities, fatherhood and risk across biographical time?
  • How effective is the strategy of using cultural images to historically contextualise biographical data?
  • What is the utility of a research design combining intensive and extensive tracking of individuals across different life stages?
  • How can a virtual network of (academic) users be used to develop data analysis and establish the reach, relevance and impact of findings?

Cardiff Timescapes Conference

The Cardiff Timescapes conference on ‘The Craft of Qualitative Longitudinal Research’ took place in the Glamorgan building on 20th January. A large audience of over one hundred academics and third sector researchers attended a range of sessions covering the theoretical and practical issues around conducting qualitative longitudinal research. Conference web pages.