Families, Relationships and Societies
An international journal of research and debate

Out-of-place: the lack of engagement with parent networks of caregiving fathers of young children

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Rachel BrooksUniversity College London, UK

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Paul HodkinsonUniversity College London, UK

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This article explores the daytime social interactions of fathers in heterosexual households who have assumed primary or equal responsibility for the care of their young children. It outlines how, for most such fathers in our sample, contact with other parents during their day-to-day care was minimal. Many initially rationalised their isolation as a personal preference rooted in their own ‘introverted’ nature, but such individualised narratives underplayed how various systemic factors worked against their integration into parent networks. While these may include, we suggest, less intense pressures than mothers to engage with such groups in the first place, our primary findings concern barriers they faced, including: feeling ‘out-of-place’ in many daytime public spaces; a specific fear of being judged because of their gender; and the difficulty of meeting other fathers with responsibility for day-to-day care. The operation of these factors, we argue, provides evidence of the enduring nature of gender differences with respect to early years parenting and in particular, of the gendering of daytime public parenting spaces – something that may represent a barrier to the extent and longevity of fathers’ caregiving roles.

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Rachel BrooksUniversity College London, UK

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Paul HodkinsonUniversity College London, UK

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