Children’s Agency and Father’s Positive Health and Work-Related Benefits

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:30
Oral Presentation
Alexandra MACHT, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
Studies on the relationship between fathers and children often overlook the mutual beneficial influence both social actors have on their close relationship. Moreover, the literature on contemporary Scottish masculinity has been largely focused on the connection of ‘hard’ Scottish working-class masculinity and a range of subsequent health-risks and diseases. This negative view is supported by media depictions on the current vulnerable state of Scottish masculinity (Hassan, 2010), deemed ‘problematic’ as it is usually associated with cases of male suicide and social alienation. But looking at the positive and everyday interactions between Scottish fathers and their children, and by adopting a social-constructionist framework with an embodied focus (Burkitt, 2014), a different picture is revealed. Based on empirical findings from 27 qualitative interviews with Scottish involved fathers and 3 observations of interacting with their children, this paper argues that it is not only fathers that are transformed by having a child but also that children can have a beneficial influence on father’s health benefits and positive engagement in work. Involved fatherhood offers the opportunity to resist practices of risk-taking and denial of treatment, which are harmful to men’s health. Importantly, children were described as re-energising fathers for work and helping them let go of negative health habits (smoking, drugs, driving more carefully). Fathers in turn adopted a future-oriented and emotionally engaged perspective to spend more time with their children, which was essential in the transformation of their daily habits. Conclusively, it is argued that children play an important role in counteracting hegemonic masculinities, as they can help fathers shift from emotional stoicism which can be harmful to health, to increased nurturance and intimacy, which can increase the well-being of both family members.