Fragile Fathering: negotiating intimacy and risk in parenting practice

Project Details


This research project was a qualitative pilot study of how men negotiated and
experienced everyday post-separation fathering. Initially framed around the
concept of ‘fragile fathers’, our research focussed on how fathers responded to,
and engaged with, ideas of risk in their day-to-day parenting. Drawing on a
purposive sample of fathers with differing contact arrangements we used diaries
(completed over one week) to shed light on the shape and routines and emotional
content of parent-child interactions. Follow-up semi-structured interviews allowed
for the opportunity to critically engage with ideas of good fathering and tensions
and constraints the men experienced in achieving their ideal. Our findings
evidenced little engagement with either risk, or indeed rights-based discourses.
Rather, men tended to offer accounts of strong intimate engagements with
children and ongoing co-operation with the mothers of their children in what were
often fluid and sometimes precarious situations. There were some examples of
frustration, anger and loss in not being able to ‘do fathering’ in way they would
like, but there were far more examples of contentment, happiness and pride in
both their fathering and the achieved father–child relationship. We therefore
suggest that the idea of post-separation fathering as inherently fragile is
misplaced and ignores the potential for a significant reconstitution of both the
practices and expectations of family life.

Layman's description

Post-Separation Fathering: Negotiating Intimacy and Risk in Parenting Practice. The project was a pilot study on how ‘fragile fathers’ experience parenthood and
the ways that paternal experience is shaped by ideas of risk. It examined paternal
practices among divorced or separated fathers in a range of different
circumstances and interrogated how these fathers understand risks in relation to
intimacy, sexuality and the body.
Effective start/end date1/03/121/04/13


  • British Academy: £7,473.00

Structured keywords

  • PolicyBristolChildrenAndFamilies


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