In this blog I reflect on becoming a Research Fellow for the FYFF team and what I am looking forward to in the role.
I had previously worked on the baseline Following Young Fathers (FYF) project at the University of Leeds. It was a brilliant project to work on and I received excellent on-the-job research training. The project was the first major study in the UK to focus on fathers; previous young parenthood research largely related to mothers. The FYF research generated a significant amount of in-depth data and covered a lot of ground. However, when the project ended there was a feeling that there was still so much more research on young fatherhood to do, so much more we could do with the data already generated and more we could do to support services for young fathers. I was incredibly excited to hear that Anna was successful in obtaining funding to do just that!
I first crossed paths with Anna when we were both working at the University of Leeds. We had many overlapping research interests so when the opportunity arose to apply for a post to work with her, I jumped at the chance! The application process was nerve racking. The job seemed like a natural career progression and a perfect fit for my research interests; I really wanted this job! The main thing that attracted me to the post was the chance to make a difference to improving the lives of young fathers and their families. The FYFF study has ambitious aims, with real potential to inform national policy agendas and implement change in participatory (or young father informed) ways. I was absolutely delighted to be offered the job and the first few months of the project have flown by.
We have spent these initial months getting to know each other as a team. The enthusiasm and ideas for the project have been really exciting and it’s brilliant to be working with a lovely team of supportive and talented colleagues. We’ve also been beavering away developing an international literature review. It is interesting to see how other countries approach young fatherhood in terms of policy and practice, as well as socially and conceptually. Watch this space for forthcoming blogs and working papers on this.
I am responsible for strands one and three of the research. Strand one will include re-accessing the young fathers who took part in the baseline Following Young Fathers study. This is particularly exciting for me, as I know these fathers well, having analysed their data. I have also interviewed some of them already. I can’t wait to find out what they have been up to since they were last interviewed! Perhaps some will even be grandfathers? Re-accessing these dads will give us qualitative research spanning 10 years or more and will provide fascinating and valuable data on young fathers’ lived experiences over time. Strand 1 will also include recruiting a new sample of around 20 young fathers from Lincolnshire, who we will also follow over time. Strand 3 is an international collaboration with our Swedish partners, Thomas and Jesper. They will recruit and conduct qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) interviews over two waves. This will generate extensive comparative data over time and place and is the first time a qualitative study about young fathers will develop comparative insights. While this presents us with some data management challenges, it will give us powerful and unique insights and explanations into the lives of young fathers in different welfare and country contexts. The depth and breadth provided by this approach to QLR will forward academic knowledge, but more importantly, gives us the tools to make a real difference to the lives of young fathers and their families.
“[Speaking about support of young fathers] We’ve done a lot of kind of advocation and representing them, a lot of the time there’s involvement with statutory services. They don’t have the care of the young person, the care’s provided by the state or the mother, so we’ve attended lots of meetings with the young person to offer additional support and facilitated contact where necessary and offered just general emotional wellbeing, support, improving robustness and resilience, encouraging them to have as amicable relationship as possible.”
“And I suppose it goes back to what we were saying before about behaviours, maybe the education side of stuff and the fact that men aren’t involved in those early conversations, you know, whether it is, I know they’re invited to come along to bumps to babies but I don’t know whether we go into the detail around some of that brain development side of stuff and things like that. Maybe that is the thing that really would change things. You know, if you were given all of that information about what happens to a child as they grow, in a scientific way, as easy to understand as possible, could be the thing that impacted on behaviour in the home.”
“I think both a mother and father combined, it’s communicating and both being on the same page of what’s best for your child or children, and for both, it’s just being there 100% for them and not, like, putting yourself first, it’s, you know, putting the child’s interests first... ”
“We need to be including, we need to not [just] be focusing on mum and child […] That’s a great focus but dad … dad’s not invisible, dad needs to be in the picture as well because there’s research that shows you the effect it has on children and families as a whole when dad isn’t in the picture, so services need to be changing the way in which they work so it’s more inclusive.”
“Cause I think a lot of the time, some of young people who end up having children have been through the care system or support systems and they can feel quite judged or labelled by organisations and it’s breaking the cycle and breaking them out of that to feel empowered to be able to take stuff back, that’s the real interest to me. So, it’s about getting support right, as in being there and giving advice and guidance and all them things that we can do, but also making sure that we are doing with people as opposed to people.”
“One of the most successful projects we ever did was an informal dads’ group, and it used to be on Saturdays […] they did what they wanted, they used to do things like breakfast, and they would have breakfast together and talk about dad stuff and where they were taking their kids. And that group was always really well attended because there was never an agenda. They were never judged. They were just there together.”
“...the whole stay at home dad thing is not something to be ashamed of, you know, if you’re a dad and you wanna take your daughter out for the day, or you wanna take your kid out for the day on your own, well why is that frowned upon, why can’t you take your child out for the day ”
“Oh…patience…compassion…tolerance, a whole boatload a’ that! Honestly, I like a whole lot of life. Sacrifice…compromise, yeah I think, yeah I think they, they would be the, the big, the five, I feel, I think that was five, they would be the main. ”
“We’re currently in touch with social services for two [dads] because they don’t understand why they can’t see their children because they haven’t been informed by social services, their partner. So there’s a massive communication breakdown with those young men, so that’s the main focus of what we’re dealing with at the minute.”