Following Young Fathers Further
Funded by the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme, ‘Following Young Fathers Further’ (FYFF) is a four-year qualitative longitudinal study exploring the parenting trajectories and support needs of young fathers (aged 25 and under).
The study commenced in January 2020 and has four main objectives:
- To develop geographically and longitudinally extended knowledge about young fathers’ lives and support needs in the UK and Sweden;
- To track policy challenges and practitioner responses in collaboration with practitioner partners in the UK as they develop and implement innovative forms of good practice with young fathers;
- To map out the current state of the international research field on young fatherhood, and
- To advance and explore creative and novel methods of qualitative longitudinal and participatory research, including methods of cocreation.
Why young fatherhood?
In the current UK welfare and policy context, young parents continue to be constructed as a ‘problem’ (Duncan, 2007) and largely responsible for their own marginalisation. In addition, where the state should assume parental responsibility for them it often fails to discharge this responsibility effectively (Bulman & Neale, 2017; Morriss, 2018). Existing research confirms that in professional settings, including maternity, child and family support services, negative assumptions about young fathers are pervasive and translate into practices of surveillance or sidelining by practitioners (Neale & Davies, 2015). Such practices exclude them from dominant expectations of ‘engaged fatherhood’ (Miller, 2011), despite the proven societal and wide-ranging benefits of men’s involvement in caregiving for children, mothers and fathers.
Existing research suggests that positive father involvement impacts directly on child well-being and their social and educational development (Poole et al. 2014). Men’s engagement during pregnancy and in childcare and household tasks reduces the likelihood of post partum depression and stress in mothers (MenCare, 2017) and fathers also gain greater confidence and satisfaction in family life (Rosenberg and Wilcox, 2006).
Yet in combination, structural, organisational and cultural influences serve to reinforce the marginalisation young fathers experience and hamper their engagements with professionals. There is therefore a clear gap between what is known, what supports young fathers and their families, and what happens in practice. Our research is addressing this gap through the generation of an extended longitudinal evidence base comprising practice-informed evidence and research-informed practice.
The study comprises four research strands. These are:
Strand One: reaccessing and researching with young fathers over time. This strand involves an extended and expanded qualitative longitudinal tracking study of the dynamics of young fathers’ lives and support needs in the UK. For this strand we aim to a) re-access young fathers who have participated in existing research (Following Young Fathers) to track their longer-term parenting experiences and pathways and b) to interview young fathers in Lincolnshire, developing urban-rural comparisons.
Strand Two: Cocreating the Grimsby Dads Collective. In this strand the project funding is supporting the cocreation and implementation of the Young Dads Collective model in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire. We are researching this process as it unfolds and are examining what works, as well as the extent to which this model can have transformative impacts on practice support for young fathers and their families. This work establishes a new national partnership between UK charities including NSPCC and YMCA Humber (in Grimsby) and Coram Family and Childcare (London). The Young Dads Collective supports young fathers to share their experiences with service providers and policy-makers, through workshops run by the young fathers themselves.
Strand Three: International comparative research with young fathers. This is an international, comparative strand involving comparative research on young fatherhood with the support of our academic project partners in Sweden, to develop new empirical insights in different welfare contexts. We also intend to establish a new international network. If you are interested in joining this network please go to our ‘Contact‘ page and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.
Strand Four: Peer Research with the North East Young Dads and Lads. This is a new strand of the project developed in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Researching the impact of the pandemic on young fathers and the responses of professionals who support them, this strand involves a new partnership with the North East Young Dads and Lads project in Gateshead. This new partnership extends the comparative element of young father research in the UK and establishes new academic and disciplinary collaborations.
The study is addressing the following research questions:
- How do the multiple disadvantages faced by marginalised young fathers impact on their parenting trajectories and longer term outcomes and aspirations?
- How are young fathers’ experiences shaped within a shifting climate of policy and professional practice and evolving ideologies of engaged fatherhood?
- What are the benefits and key challenges of initiating supportive, client centred models of intervention in the UK and what might be learnt across comparative, international contexts?
We are employing qualitative longitudinal and participatory methods to track the lives and support experiences of young fathers over time. This means working directly with young fathers and project partners in order to deliver more effective support and to produce an evidence base that is directly informed by participant experience.