Drawing on an extended longitudinal study of the lived experiences and support needs of young fathers, this working paper follows the fortunes of 31 young men through the process of becoming a parent. The paper begins with some reflections on the nature of existing evidence on young fathers. In 2010, at the outset of our study, we discovered a paradox in researching this topic. On the one hand, young fathers had been neglected in social scientific research and marginalized in policy discourses and in professional practice (see Neale 2016, Neale and Davies 2015 and for parallel developments in a US context, Parikh 2005). On the other hand, they loomed large in popular media and political discourses, where they are commonly represented in negative terms as ‘troubled’ youth and feckless parents (Duncan 2007). In order to address this gap in the evidence base, we sought to understand how young fatherhood is experienced and practiced, and what factors influence the capacity of young men to establish and sustain a paternal role. Our particular focus in this working paper is the shifting nature and quality of young fathers’ relationships with the mothers of their children, and how this in turn impacts on their paternal engagement. We also explore the gendered ideologies and values that underpin these processes. These emerged as pivotal issues for the young men in this study. We conclude with a brief reflection on the policy implications of the findings. (Author abstract)
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