Supporting care-giving fathers: fathers' perspectives of work, care and masculinity.




Elischer, Nicola

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This study explores fatherhood in contemporary Canadian society by drawing on the experiences of nine full-time care-giving fathers in Vancouver, Canada. Using a social constructionist epistemology, the study explored how fathers who are primary caregivers to their young children construct masculinity, how they enact primary care-giving, and how they can be better supported within communities. Fathers were recruited through posters in community centres and through snowball sampling and volunteered to participate in interviews lasting between one and three hours. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and analysed using pragmatic thematic analysis. Three key themes were constructed to represent the fathers’ self-reported experiences: fathers’ enactment of primary care-giving; fathers’ constructions of masculinity within dominant discourses of masculinity and care; and father’s support needs. Findings suggest that for these primary care-giving fathers, care-giving is active and adventurous, and egalitarian beliefs and roles regarding child care and domestic responsibility predominate within their co-parenting relationship. Traditional Euro-western masculine ideology tends to give way to a “hybrid” ideology that emphasizes affection, emotional intelligence, and caring for one’s family as a whole. Fathers indicated a preference for supports that are self-sought such as the internet and support from partners, and informal supports such as community events and time with peers to structured supports provided by community programs. Fathers who reported benefits from formal community programs offered insight into father-friendly practices. Stigma about primary care-giving by fathers was a significant theme constructed from the data. Implications for community programs for families and primary care-giving fathers in particular are discussed.



father, primary caregiving, parenting, community support, social support, informational support, programs, parental leave, masculinity, gender ideology