University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 24 Apr 2015 Responsible fatherhood: A narrative approach (Eerola)

Start date: Apr 24, 2015 12:00 PM

End date: Apr 24, 2015 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, S212

Petteri Eerola, photo by Tarja Vänskä-KauhanenM.A., M.Soc.Sc. Petteri Eerola defends his doctoral dissertation in Education ”Responsible fatherhood: A narrative approach”. Opponent Professor Vilma Hänninen (University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio) and custos Professor Anna Rönkä (University of Jyväskylä).

The event is in Finnish.

Over the last three decades in Finland, men’s share in child care has broadened notably. At the same, the cultural expectations of fathers and understanding of men as parents have also changed and become more care- and nurture-oriented. In this thesis, situated at the intersection of the family and gender research traditions in education and sociology, my aim is to study the narratives of responsible fatherhood produced by Finnish men in their early fatherhood years. In more detail, I analyze in what terms responsible fatherhood is conceptualized, and what gendering of responsibility men’s narratives reveal. The thesis draws on narrative methodology, that is, fathers’ accounts are analyzed as narratives, and the data were gathered using narrative interviews. In total, the empirical data comprises 60 interviews conducted with 44 fathers during the first three years of their fatherhood. The data analyses are described in the three peer-reviewed articles appended to the thesis.

In the men’s narratives, the comprehensive engagement of fathers in caregiving from the very beginning of parenthood emerged as a major feature of responsible fatherhood. That is, nurture and hands-on care by fathers were seen as self-evident and performed on the father’s initiative. In many ways, differences between fathering and mothering were not emphasized, as the narratives were close to or parallel with the cultural portrayals of “good” motherhood. Also, traditional paternal responsibilities such as breadwinning were narrated as shared parental duties in principle, though the fathers’ accounts highlighted how these ideals were not always realized in everyday life. However, it seems that fathers have moved closer towards the intimate and emotional core of the family, and fatherhood has become a life domain in which men are allowed, even required, to show their emotions and act in many ways that run counter to what has traditionally been understood as masculine. Conceptually, the narratives highlighted issues such as taking a comprehensive share in nurture and care that have not previously been seen as part of responsible and involved fatherhood.

Keywords: first-time fatherhood, early fatherhood, gendered parenting, parental responsibility, men’s studies, narrativity, narrative analysis

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Doctoral Student Petteri Eerola