Working with fathers
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Working with Fathers. Mark Smith. ‘ Dad ’ s the word ’. Perception, men as distant, unemotional "I guess I am gonnae explode soon - can't keep all this in my head". Of the sample, 20% were diagnosed with depression and another fifth stated that they constantly felt depressed

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Working with Fathers

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Working with fathers

Working with Fathers

Mark Smith

Dad s the word

‘Dad’s the word’

  • Perception, men as distant, unemotional

  • "I guess I am gonnae explode soon - can't keep all this in my head". Of the sample, 20% were diagnosed with depression and another fifth stated that they constantly felt depressed

  • "I've been there, bottling it up playing the hard man - it takes lumps out of you, and I am past the age of worrying about losing face. It's good to get the other boys to talk about what's eating them, things like custody”

  • Men might potentially become involved in nursery trips etc but tended not to do so. Another, who ran a parents’ group, noted that “no father has ever shown an interest in attending”.

Lads becoming dads

‘Lads becoming dads’

  • Perception, feckless, unconcerned

  • Yet, teenage fathers often want babies as much as teenage mothers do, for many of the same reasons.

  • “ I wanted to be there for her - don't know if I love her - don't think so, but just feel responsible. Contact's a killer. They (the mother's parents) want her to stick in at college - get a decent job - they see me as a waster - not good enough for her. I'm starting to feel they are right and maybe I should just drift off the scene.”

  • “One crap boyfriend but one brilliant dad."

The context

The Context

  • Turn of the 21st Century, eighty percent of fathers still lived with all of their biological children and only thirteen percent did not live with any of them. Among non-resident fathers, seventy percent remained in contact with their children (Burghes, Clark and Cronin, 1997).

  • Children in child protection system: only thirty eight percent lived with both parents, thirty one percent with a lone mother, twenty eight percent in reconstituted families and two percent with lone fathers. The figures for those still with both parents drops sharply as child protection proceedings continue (Daniel and Taylor 2001).

  • Children in child protection system have significantly less access to their fathers than the wider population

Since then

Since then

  • Consensus about positive role fathers play in children’s lives

  • So, children in CP system are disadvantaged by father absence

  • But … discourses that stereotype, label and marginalise men

  • Fathers continue to be systematically excluded from the child protection system (Daniel and Taylor, Buckley …)

Constructions of men in cp

Constructions of men in CP

  • Scourfield

  • No use

  • Absent – ‘missing in action’

  • One dimensional – men as ‘bad’, mothers as ‘good’

  • As ‘risky’

  • Clapton’s work on fathers’ portrayal in social work literature – either invisible or abusive

  • Some even whisper of men as a resource



  • Male privilege

  • Argued to be feminist but stuck in second wave feminism (Dworkin and MacKinnon)

  • Standpoint -‘It’s feminist because I say so’ (Orme, 2003)

  • Need to challenge male power – hence ‘perpetrator’ label, holding men to account

  • Programmes

  • Shame/humiliation – like using gasoline to put out a fire (Nussbaum, 2006)

  • Based on ideology rather than evidence

The evidence

The evidence

  • Dixon, Archer and Graham-kevan (2012) ‘Perpetrator programmes for partner violence; are they based on ideology or evidence?’

  • The patriarchal view of partner violence is evaluated using empirical evidence from various branches of the social sciences that have not been guided by the patriarchal view

  • Results: Overwhelming evidence is presented which refutes ideologically driven assumptions that have been put forward to guide current practice

  • Conclusions: need to investigate intimate partner violence from a scientific and gender inclusive perspective

A gender inclusive perspective

A gender inclusive perspective

  • ‘the complexity and diversity of women’s experience and the richness of feminist theories that explore and explain that experience.’ and ‘the complex and multi-layered operation of power …., whatever their gender’ (Orme)

  • Eschews totalising, dualising

Working with men

Working with men?

  • Terminologically problematic

  • What men? – men are 50% of population

  • Misandry: ‘a pervasive and pathological anxiety over sexuality in general and male sexuality in particular.’ (Nathanson and Young)

  • An alternative feminist position – looking for consensus

A poem to end with

A poem to end with

  • When you read the file

  • Before you’ve even met …

  • stop in case you imagine

  • this great towering beast

  • with a huge fiery tongue

  • and glittering eyes

  • because in will come

  • this wee specky person

  • who wouldn’t say boo

  • to the proverbial … (Reading Files, Alistair Findlay)

  • We persist in imagining great towering beasts (and reifying these images in the reports that are written) when we need to be engaging with wee specky people who need to have their stories heard and listened to

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