Person's hands using laptop
Christin Hume
12 May 2020Update

Life as a post-doc on the FYFF study: reflections so far

Life as a post-doc on the FYFF study: reflections so far by Laura Way

When I applied for one of the research fellowships on the FYFF project, I had not long received confirmation of the award of my PhD which had taken me six years part-time to complete. I had also started a full-time, fixed term Lecturer post after several years of hourly work. I had begun a new academic year in a more secure position than ever and everything appeared to be ‘coming together’.

Whilst I enjoy teaching I have always aspired to build a career as a social researcher and my Lectureship provided little research support. There was no obvious research culture at the institution either. Fresh out of doctoral research I wanted to develop my research experience further.

Reading through the information pack for FYFF prior to applying I was enthused by what was being proposed and could see how valuable this work was going to be. I also worried about applying – I felt the position was out of my league. I put the application off for quite a while and nearly talked myself out of applying altogether. I was quite surprised to get an interview and even more so when I was offered one of the positions…I was over the moon! Anna had a clear vision for the Fellowships; they were intended to be training opportunities for early career researchers, so it turned out that I was ideally placed for the role. Three months in and I’m thoroughly enjoying the role and being part of such a fantastic research team.

In terms of the research project, I will be focusing on strand 2. This strand involves introducing a novel social intervention, called the Young Dads Collective, to Grimsby and evaluating this from the perspectives of young fathers and those involved in the implementation. Strand 2 is going to draw upon qualitative research tools such as in-depth interviewing and reflexive diaries as well as utilising creative data capturing during the interviews themselves. These interview schedules are currently being developed and are something we are considering across strands in terms of areas for overlap. Something else we will no doubt reflect upon in a future post.

This research fellowship, then, very much ticked a lot of boxes for me (as much as likening this to a tick box activity doesn’t seem quite right to me):

  1. I’ve heard our project lead, Anna, refer to the importance of having a research narrative a few times now and whilst I still need to refine what mine is (or will be!), the FYFF project offers some key overlaps with my own research interests. With a focus on ageing punk women, my PhD was concerned with taking a ‘life-course’ approach to understanding subcultural affiliation as well as exploring how ageing is gendered. The FYFF project offered overlaps with my existing research interests concerning gender, life transitions and construction of identity.
  2. Something else that particularly drew me to the FYFF project were the proposed methodologies. FYFF seeks to explore young fatherhood through qualitative methodologies which involve collaboration, creativity and participation, as well as exploring innovative ways of researching. This fit with my own methodological interests as a qualitative researcher committed to exploring creative and innovative research tools – during my research with ageing punk women, for example, I invited participants to create ‘zine’ pages which were collated and distributed as well as used as a tool for data capturing. We hope to develop this methodology in the FYFF study.
  3. Identifying as a feminist since my teenage years, this interweaved with my sociological education and in turn influenced areas of interest as well as my approach to research. It was important for me to be involved in a project built upon feminist values. FYFF is an explicitly feminist study. This was clear not just from a methodological standpoint, for example, but also in its desired aims to transform the way that society constructs and responds to marginalised young fathers through practice and policy in ways that seek to achieve gender equality. I was enthused by the potential to be involved in research which could contribute in some way to achieving greater gender equality.
  4. Finally, I wanted to be involved in a project that would challenge me, offering plenty of learning curves and opportunities for development. From the outset I knew the FYFF project would provide lots of chance to learn and develop my career. Working as part of a research team, for example, working with external partners, dealing with such large and varied sets of data… All of this would help me develop as a researcher and provide a safe yet challenging space to gain new skills and experiences. Related to this there were development opportunities for the research fellows built into the project.

And now I (along with most of the population) am currently experiencing an unexpected learning curve (or curve ball?!) – learning now to adjust to a new normality amidst the COVID-19 crisis. This raises various questions in the context of FYFF… How might we progress with the project and the research? What impact is this crisis having on marginalised young fathers and their families more broadly? As we do move forward, we will explore such questions as a team further and post them on the blog and project website.

In the meantime, look after yourselves and each other.


From our partners and young dads

[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.

Housing Charity

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.

Children's Charity

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...

Jock, 33
I was 23 when I had my child

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.

Children and Families Support Organisation

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.

Children's Charity

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.

Children and Families Support Organisation

...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

Toby, 26
I was 24 when I had my first child.

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. 

Ben, 31
I was 20 when I had my child

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.

Young Fathers' Support Organisation


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