1648 fatherhood

distinction is made between the terms father,
fathering, and fatherhood. The first refers to
the connection made between a particular child
and a particular man (whether biological or
social). The second refers to behavior; the
actual practices of doing parenting. The
third refers to more general ideologies and pub
lic meanings associated with being a father.
Fatherhood research is conducted in a num
ber of academic disciplines and commentaries
on fatherhood have also become commonplace
outside academia in literature and non fiction.
Within the social sciences, researchers working
from a developmental perspective use quantita
tive techniques to explore the effect of pater
nal influence and fatherchild relationships on
the well being of children and fathers. Statisti
cal techniques, applied to survey material, are
also used to develop cause and effect linkages
between mens structural positions and their
fathering behavior. Qualitative approaches, often
associated with a symbolic interactionist per
spective, are adopted by scholars interested
in exploring individuals perceptions and ex
periences of diverse forms of fatherhood. Dis
courses of fatherhood are examined by
poststructuralists using images of fatherhood
in policy documents and the popular media.
Apparent discrepancies between representations
of fatherhood and fathering behavior mean that
exploring the alleged gulf between the
culture and conduct of fatherhood (La
Rossa 1988) has become a major focus for scho
larly attention.
The breadth and depth of research on father
hood have developed exponentially since the
1970s. Debates about womens role in society
that emerged at this time stimulated a comple
mentary interest in exploring masculinity.
Womens increasing participation in the labor
market intensified discussion about the con
struction of motherhood and led to an aware
ness of the relative lack of comment about
mens roles in the family. Thus fatherhood
research gained attention to provide balance to
family research that was dominated by analyses
of motherhood. Justification for the significance
of fatherhood as a research topic in its own
right drew on psychological evidence, which
emphasized the importance of fathers for the
successful emotional and educational develop
ment of children (Lamb 2003).
The changing nature of fatherhood is a con
sistent theme in research. The stereotypical
image of Victorian fatherhood as strict and
detached has been frequently adopted as a basis
for comparison with contemporary ideas, and
the emergence of scholarship on fatherhood in
the 1970s sometimes led to an impression that
a fundamentally different kind of fatherhood
began during this period. The absence of a
usable past (La Rossa 1997) may explain the
tendency towards making overly neat distinc
tions between old/traditional and new father
hood. A simplistic historical pattern describes
the father as moving from moral guardian, dis
ciplinarian, and educator, to the single role of
financial provider, to the modern version of
nurturing involvement (Pleck & Pleck 1997).
However, more nuanced accounts have chal
lenged this narrative by drawing attention, for
example, to the presence of emotional responses
to parenthood in mens lives in earlier periods. It
is now widely accepted that a linear progression
does not easily fit onto historical reality or ade
quately indicate the complexity of fatherhood.
While there is general agreement that the
meanings of fatherhood have altered, there is
less consensus over the extent of change and
the meaning of modern fatherhood. A key
question is the degree to which being the finan
cial provider remains a significant aspect of
fatherhood. Those who claim the ideology
of breadwinner/ricewinner has been replaced
with the nurturing father model suggest it is
the quality of the fatherchild relationship and
childcare that is increasingly prioritized by
men. Given womens higher levels of participa
tion in the labor market throughout the life
course and the rise of dual income households,
providing money to support family life can
no longer be described as the preserve of the
male parent. On the other hand, in two parent
households men continue to contribute a larger
proportion of the family income than women
and the continuing expectation that men will
provide for their family is exemplified in the
common legal requirement that a father con
tinues to be financially responsible for his chil
dren after divorce or separation.
Another focus is describing the components
of new fatherhood. One characteristic is
the development of an emotional relationship
between father and child, but there is an

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