The Awkward Spaces of Fathering

p>Social science research often defines a father's relationship and involvement with his children as a form of co-parenting that is interdependent with, in opposition to, and at times less than mothering. It is a position that tends to avoid issues of power, dominance and positioning, and often soft-pedals the emotional bonds between fathers and their children. This project seeks to advance knowledge of the mythic ideals that help structure the gender and spatial relations of fathering, and to understand more fully how these get in the way of the day-to-day work of fathering. There are two sub-components to this project.

I. The Emotional Work of Fathering: A Study of the Spatial Construction of Fathering

An ongoing ten-year longitudinal study using ethnographic interviews and participant observation explores how much of the institution of fatherhood hinges on an "idea" that does not embrace the "fact" of fathering as a daily emotional practice that is negotiated, contested and resisted differently in different spaces. Of central importance is the assumption that these spaces are highlighted and questioned or put in jeopardy.

II. Recovering Fatherhood: A Study of the Social and Spatial Politics of Exclusion

This part of the study explores normative views of "being a father" amongst a sample of fathers whose place in a family is contested by past behaviors and practices. The specific focus of change for this project is exclusion from, or tension within, families due to a father's past substance abuse and other dependencies. The project seeks to understand how fathers in recovery from addictive diseases create new and complex spaces of interaction with their families.

For more information about this project, please contact Dr. Stuart Aitken.