Today we are pleased to announce the launch of two new briefing papers based on wave 1 of the Following Young Fathers Further research. As part of this short series we present emergent findings of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on the parenting journeys and support needs of the seventeen young fathers we interviewed. The papers can be accessed here and on the Findings and Publications tab of our website.
Briefing Paper One considers the changing earning and caring trajectories of young fathers. The findings we present in this briefing paper demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic and first lockdown engendered major changes in the organisation of work and family life for young fathers and their families. Those with young babies were forced to adjust to their new identities and bond with their babies against a backdrop of major social upheaval. Despite notable challenges linked to the exclusion of fathers from overnight stays at hospitals, the young fathers valued the additional time they were afforded to spend quality time with children. These findings demonstrate the vital need for the establishment of a caring economy and the introduction of stable incomes, especially in contexts of crisis, so that there is always a safety net for young families. They also lend significant weight to the value of introducing affordable and accessible paternity leave for all fathers, more home working and shorter hours to enable flexibility for care sharing.
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Briefing Paper Two explores the implications and effects of the pandemic on young fathers’ wider family relationships and experiences of isolation during the lockdown. The impacts of the lockdown on young fathers reflect a mixed picture. For young fathers who were already disconnected from their children and families, the lockdown reinforced feelings of social isolation. For others, it was perceived as an opportunity for increased time to be alone and/or to support family members and children. Based on our findings we recommend that services remain attentive to the support needs of young fathers and develop a caring and compassionate approach that acknowledges the longer-term implications of the pandemic on their mental health and well-being.
We also have a forthcoming paper planned for early next year that will focus on how support services fared and adapted in their remit to support young fathers.
We extend our special thanks to Emerita Professor Bren Neale for providing comments on earlier drafts of the papers in a very short space of time and to Dr Michael Richardson, Newcastle University for supporting the interview process for some of the dads who participated.
We welcome any feedback or questions you may have on these findings and appreciate your support in disseminating the papers among your networks.
“[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.”