Diversification of Fatherhood Figures in France As a New Trend That Follows Depatriarchalisation

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Fabienne BERTON, LISE CNRS CNAM UMR 3320, France
Marie-Christine BUREAU, Lise-CNRS, Cnam, France
Barbara RIST, LISE CNRS CNAM UMR 3320, France
The decline of patriarchal fatherhood (Hobsbawn, 2005) and of the “rule of the fathers” during the last third of the 20th century goes hand in hand with new forms of fathers’ commitment (Le Camus, 2005). Since the 1970’s, the dimensions of parenthood (biological, social and legal) are no more necessarily associated: parenting roles can be assumed by several persons (Théry, 1998). Therefore, the diversification of family patterns leads to a new definition of the roles within the couple from a double point of view: symbolical and practical. The symbolical power of the father concerns two dimensions: the legal institution of the “paterfamilias” with parentage and genealogy and the lacanian concept of the “name of the father” in the psychanalytical theory. The practical level concerns the real daily division of domestic and parental tasks.

Our research, at a micro level, highlights different figures of fathers by crossing these symbolical and practical dimensions. Besides the traditional figure of the breadwinner and the tragic figure of the socially failing father, we will draw attention to new patterns of involved fathers, illustrating each figure by a portrait. We will show how these figures are being built in interaction between families’ experiences and social policies. For instance, we can observe a voluntarist policy towards single mothers in order to restore fatherhood within the family.

This work is part of a research project about parenthood financed by the French National Family Benefits Fund. We interviewed 60 families of different types: large, with step-mothers and step-fathers, migrant or bi-cultural and same-sex families and 25 early childhood professionals. We chose families with a new born baby because birth situations put at stake family roles and the links between families and institutions are reinforced at children’s birth.