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Fatherhood is a social institution and includes the rights, responsibilities and statuses associated with being a father. It also refers to general ideologies and public meanings. There is general agreement that fatherhood has altered over recent decades but less consensus over the extent of change.
The breadth and depth of research on fatherhood has developed exponentially since the 1970s along with recognition of the heterogeneity of fathers’ social situations. The significance of biological fatherhood has increased since it has been possible to identify the genetic parent. Perhaps paradoxically, social fatherhood is also gaining more attention. High levels of divorce and remarriage have led to many men entering fatherhood through formal and informal adoptive and step relationships. Variations in the experiences and ideals of fatherhood due to differences in residency, age, class, sexuality, and ethnicity are also increasingly the subject of study.
Within the social sciences, researchers working from a developmental perspective use quantitative techniques to explore the effect of paternal influence and father—child relations on the well-being of children and fathers. Qualitative approaches are adopted by scholars interested in exploring individuals’ perceptions and experiences of fatherhood. Discourses of fatherhood are also examined, using images of fatherhood in policy documents and the popular media. In these latter two arenas key questions are the degree to which being the financial provider remains important and the extent to which nurturing and ”caring for” children has become a significant component of fathering.
- Dermott, E. (2008) Intimate Fatherhood. Routledge, New York and London.