In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Fathers

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • History
  • Fathers’ Role
  • Contemporary “Good” Fatherhood
  • Representations of Fathers
  • Pathways and Transitions to Fatherhood
  • Policy and Socio-Legal Frameworks
  • Fathers’ Rights and Activism
  • Methodology

Childhood Studies Fathers
Esther Dermott
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0146


Research on fathers spans social science disciplines; sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, socio-legal studies and social policy. Understanding contemporary fathers involves a consideration of the ideals and expectations of fatherhood as a set of culturally constructed norms. It also requires knowledge of the everyday practices and activities that make up fathering, including the limitations imposed by institutions, policies, and networks of personal and professional relationships. Finally, it means taking account of the individual characteristics of fathers themselves who are situated within particular familial and geographical locations at a specific moment in time.

General Overviews

Studies of fatherhood have increased exponentially during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. With an increase in the quantity of research, general publications now rarely attempt inclusive reviews of primary and secondary literature. Instead texts tend to offer shorter overviews of current issues in fatherhood, present edited collections of contemporary research covering a broad range of issues and fathering situations, or bring together contributions on a particular aspect of fatherhood. Six of the titles included here are edited collections. Shwalb, et al. 2013 is organized by geographical region and presents an overview of fatherhood research in each area. Oeschle, et al. 2012 foregrounds the relationship between structural change and ideas of fatherhood; it also draws on a range of disciplinary perspectives. Doucet, et al. 2009 begins with the recognition that fathering takes place across diverse settings, and many of the contributions connect practices with policy initiatives. Cabrera and Tamis-LeMonda 2013 highlights research questions on fatherhood that are currently being explored across different disciplines. Two further edited overviews are slightly narrower. Lamb 2010 focuses on the impact of fatherhood on child development, while Dempsey and Hewitt 2012 concentrates on the Australian context to explore new challenges to, and forms of, fatherhood. Eggebeen and Knoester 2001 was important in sparking interest in fatherhood from the point of view of fathers themselves by examining the value of parenthood for men’s well-being (as opposed to the value of fathers for children’s lives). Marsiglio, et al. 2000 is an overview of research on fatherhood between 1990 and 2000, during which time research on fatherhood increased exponentially.

  • Cabrera, Natasha J., and Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, eds. Handbook of Fatherhood Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    Textbook style in format, this volume gives an overview and a “taster” of key research questions being addressed by research on fatherhood across the disciplines of sociology, demography, legal studies, policy, biology, and psychology.

  • Dempsey, Deborah, and Belinda Hewitt, eds. “Fatherhood in the Early 21st Century.” Special Issue: Journal of Family Studies 18.2–3 (2012).

    Collecting research on fatherhood in contemporary Australia, this special issue engages with debates around post-separation fathering, new changes to allow men paternity leave, and the experience of fathers beyond the heterosexual family.

  • Doucet, Andrea, Rosalind Edwards, and Frank F. Furstenberg, eds. “Fathering Across Diversity and Adversity: International Perspectives and Policy Interventions.” In The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 624.1–254 (2009).

    Setting out to emphasize the diversity of fatherhood and fathering, this volume is broad ranging. It draws on sociological research and includes articles from a variety of national contexts across North America and Europe highlighting the significance of social divisions (e.g., class and ethnicity), as well as the impact of policy.

  • Eggebeen, David J., and Chris Knoester. “Does Fatherhood Matter for Men?” Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (2001): 381–393.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00381.x

    While being a father in itself has no independent association with psychological and physical health, fathers and non-fathers do differ with regard to their social connections, intergenerational family ties, and work behavior. The context of fathering is also important, as men who have non-resident children, stepfathers, and fathers of adult children had different patterns of connections to resident biological fathers of young children.

  • Lamb, Michael E., ed. The Role of the Father in Child Development. 5th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010.

    The most comprehensive collection on the impact of fatherhood on children, this volume has not only been updated but also substantially developed since its first edition in 1976. The focus is on definitions of fatherhood involvement, relationship with outcomes for children, and links to social policy. The first two editions have an introduction presenting an overview of existing research.

  • Marsiglio, William, Paul Amato, Randal D. Day, and Michael E. Lamb. “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond.” Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (2000): 1173–1191.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01173.x

    Offers an overview of a decade that saw intensive research on fatherhood. The authors note key themes in this period as the study of fatherhood in terms of cultural representation, emphasis on diversity in fatherhood practices, links with measures of child development, and exploring the construction of fatherhood identity.

  • Oeschle, Mechtild, Ursula Müller, and Sabine Hess, eds. Fatherhood in Late Modernity: Cultural Images, Social Practices, Structural Frames. Opladen, Germany: Verlag Barbara Budrich, 2012.

    The editors suggest that contemporary understandings of fatherhood need to engage with cultural representations, the practices of fathers, the influence of organizations and the regulations governing fatherhood through law and politics. The edited book presents reflections on all four aspects drawing on the work of international contributors.

  • Shwalb, D. W., B. J. Shwalb, and Michael E. Lamb, eds. Fathers in Cultural Context. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    Beginning from the premise that fatherhood research needs to reflect the diversity of fathering experiences, this edited collection presents fourteen chapters covering a range of different national contexts. Each chapter is a review of research within a particular geographical region.

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