The Project

About Following Young Fathers Further

In the current UK welfare and policy context, young parents continue to be constructed as a ‘problem’ (Duncan, 2007) and largely responsible for their own marginalisation. In addition, where the state should assume parental responsibility for them it often fails to discharge this responsibility effectively (Bulman & Neale, 2017; Morriss, 2018). Existing research confirms that in professional settings, including maternity, child and family support services, negative assumptions about young fathers are pervasive and translate into practices of surveillance or sidelining by practitioners (Neale & Davies, 2015). Such practices exclude them from dominant expectations of ‘engaged fatherhood’ (Miller, 2011), despite the proven societal and wide-ranging benefits of men’s involvement in caregiving for children, mothers and fathers.

Existing research suggests that positive father involvement impacts directly on child well-being and their social and educational development (Poole et al. 2014). Men’s engagement during pregnancy and in childcare and household tasks reduces the likelihood of post partum depression and stress in mothers (MenCare, 2017) and fathers also gain greater confidence and satisfaction in family life (Rosenberg and Wilcox, 2006).

Yet in combination, structural, organisational and cultural influences serve to reinforce the marginalisation young fathers experience and hamper their engagements with professionals. There is therefore a clear gap between what is known, what supports young fathers and their families, and what happens in practice.

WilfFunded by the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme, ‘Following Young Fathers Further’ (FYFF) is a four-year qualitative longitudinal study exploring the parenting trajectories and support needs of young fathers (aged 25 and under). A novel social intervention called the ‘Young Dads Collective (YDC)‘ will also be implemented and evaluated in Grimsby, a new area of the UK. YDC supports young fathers to share their experiences with service providers and policy-makers, through workshops run by the young fathers themselves. This work establishes a new national partnership between UK charities including NSPCC and YMCA Humber (in Grimsby) and Coram Family and Childcare (London). We are also working with new international academic partners in Sweden. In scaling up research about young fatherhood and the support needs of young men, FYFF represents the most significant investment in research and support for young parents in recent years.

The study has four main objectives:

  • To develop geographically and longitudinally extended knowledge about young fathers’ lives and support needs in the UK and Sweden;
  • To track policy challenges and practitioner responses in collaboration with practitioner partners in the UK as they develop and implement innovative forms of good practice with young fathers;
  • To map out the current state of the international research field on young fatherhood, and
  • To advance and explore creative and novel methods of qualitative longitudinal research.

The study commenced in January 2020.

Research strands:

The study comprises four research strands. These are:

Strand One: Involves an extended and expanded qualitative longitudinal tracking study of the dynamics of young fathers’ lives and support needs in the UK. For this strand we aim to a) re-access young fathers who have participated in existing research to track their longer-term parenting experiences and pathways and b) to interview young fathers in Lincolnshire, developing urban-rural comparisons.

Ask a DadStrand Two: In this strand the project funding supports the implementation of the Young Dads Collective model in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire. We will also research this process and examine what works, as well as the extent to which this model can have transformative impacts on practice support for young fathers and their families. This strand is dependent on strong working partnerships with the London-based charity Coram Family and Childcare, as well as local organisations in Grimsby who provide support for young fathers.

Strand Three: Is an international, comparative strand. Here we intend to conduct comparative research on young fatherhood with the support of our academic project partners in Sweden, to develop new empirical insights in different welfare contexts. We also intend to establish a new international network. If you are interested in joining this network please go to our ‘contact us‘ page and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Strand Four: This is a new strand of the project developed in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Researching the impact of the pandemic on young fathers and the responses of professionals who support them, this strand involves a new partnership with the North East Young Dads and Lads project in Gateshead and an academic collaboration with Dr Michael Richardson at Newcastle University. This new partnership extends the comparative element of young father research in the UK and establishes new academic and disciplinary collaborations.

Research Questions

The study will address the following research questions:

1) How do the multiple disadvantages faced by marginalised young fathers impact on their parenting trajectories and longer term outcomes and aspirations?

2) How are young fathers’ experiences shaped within a shifting climate of policy and professional practice and evolving ideologies of engaged fatherhood?

3) What are the benefits and key challenges of initiating supportive, client centred models of intervention in the UK and what might be learnt across comparative, international contexts?

Research Methods

Across all three strands we will use qualitative longitudinal and participatory methods of research to track the lives and support experiences of young fathers over time. This means working directly with young fathers and project partners in order to deliver more effective support and to produce an evidence base that is directly informed by participant experience.

We are keen to take the opportunity to develop a network of practitioners, policy makers and experts (from young fathers to researchers) so that we can share our findings, share expertise and share resources, both as the study progresses and beyond the lifetime of the study. If you are interested in the project and/or would like to join our network as an affiliated partner, please go to the ‘Contact Us’ page and get in touch. Affiliated partners have the option of being listed on our ‘Project partners’ page and will receive regular updates about the project and its outcomes.