Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Swirak, Katharina; Jenkinson, Hilary; and Christie, Alastair
Social Policy Association Annual Conference: ‘Social Policy: Radical, Resistant, Resolute’.
The construction of fathers and fathering in contemporary Irish family support policy and practice
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Contemporary Irish policy discourse on ‘parenting support’ is framed largely as ‘gender neutral’. At the same time, family support workers at the local level implement policies in gender specific ways. Mothers are often approached as the default parent for a variety of reasons, yet there is also a growing recognition of the need to specifically support fathers in their parenting role. This latter development has to be contextualised both in light of changing Irish family structures as well as the impacts of the recent recession. Over recent decades, we have seen a significant increase in female-headed one parent households and a high non-marital birth rate, alongside increasing patterns of cohabitation, divorce, same sex families and reconstituted families. However, gender inequalities in unpaid care work and access to parental leave, along with levels of violence within families have remained largely unchanged. The recent recession and associated austerity programmes have disproportionately affected families living in poverty and in particular affected men and fathers. This paper claims that it is important to understand along which lines the ‘gendering’ of fathering is constructed in family support discourses and practices at the local level. The analysis of in-depth interviews with family support workers in a variety of family support settings traces their complex and contradicting constructions of ‘fathering’ across parameters of hegemonic masculinity, class and risk, and considers the implications for broader Irish family support policy.