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Socio-historical perspectives on young fatherhood: exploration of social change on the Isle of Sheppey

Socio-historical perspectives on young fatherhood: exploration of social change on the Isle of Sheppey

Mansi, Gemma Joanna (2013) Socio-historical perspectives on young fatherhood: exploration of social change on the Isle of Sheppey. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The academic field of young parenthood has seen a significant increase in interest, both academic and political, in recent years. This increased interest is related to the view that young parents are “outside” normative discourses. Nevertheless, the experiences of young fatherhood have been minimally addressed in the academic field in comparison to the vast research carried out on young motherhood.

This thesis investigates from a socio-historical perspective, the lives and experiences of young fathers, aged 16-25, living on the Isle of Sheppey over the past sixty years. The focus of this thesis was to examine how social change may have impacted upon the lives of young fathers throughout the past sixty years within one rural geographic location. This area of interest was chosen based on the current limitations of the field, which predominantly discusses young fatherhood from a contemporary point of view and from the perspective of young fathers living in urban areas.

The first phase of this study collected documents on local social affairs on the island over the past sixty years, predominantly in local newspapers and local academic studies. This allowed for the lives of the participants to be understood in the context of a general picture of the life on the island. In the second phase, life story interviews provided detailed accounts from the viewpoint of the young fathers. For these interviews, 21 participants (aged 20-74 at the time of interview) were recruited through purposive and snowball sampling. Three cohorts were formed from the 21 participants based on similar ages and experiences. Inclusion criteria were that the young fathers were aged 25 or under when they had or were having their first child and had lived on the island for at least ten years.

The study was underpinned by structuration theory (Giddens, 1984); this theoretical approach was selected in order to aid understanding of the relationship between social change and young fatherhood in one geographic location. Sociological concepts were also employed as to act as mid-range theories in order to interpret the data.

The findings from this study suggest that social structures have increasingly affected the lives and life choices of the young fathers involved over the past sixty years. Changing political discourses, particularly since the 1980’s, have had a fundamental impact upon the economy, which has impacted upon the transitions that young men make, particularly from education to employment. The timing of this transition has also changed the age at which it is considered appropriate to begin family life, and this has affected the definition of young fatherhood in recent years.

Recent political discourses have suggested that it is the individual behaviours of these young people who become parents, which is in need of changing, rather than institutional models (SEU, 1999). However, evidence from this study has shown that there have been fewer changes in the behaviour, attitudes and perceptions of fatherhood from the perspectives of the young fathers themselves over the past sixty years. Young fathers in this study still acknowledged traditional paternal responsibilities, particularly being the main breadwinner, but may have been unable to enact them.

This study also provides an original contribution to the field of young fatherhood, addressing the situation of under-researched rural working class young fathers. It also provides an evidenced account, which goes some way to balancing the moral panic created around the discourse of young fathers as choosing to be a burden on society and not caring about their responsibilities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: fatherhood, young parenthood, sociology, rural England,
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2021 16:06

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