Childhood Studies Boys and Fatherhood
Martin Robb
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0239


The academic study both of boys’ lives and of fatherhood has increased exponentially since the late 20th century, with both fields part of a wider expansion of masculinity studies, itself the product of a renewed focus on issues of gender and identity resulting from the rise of feminist studies in the closing decades of the 20th century. While some studies of fathering have paid attention to the topic of parenting boys, and a few of the growing number of studies of boys’ experiences have focused on relationships with fathers, research that brings the two topics together, exploring either fathers’ experience of raising sons, or boys’ relationships with their fathers, is a relatively new and developing field. This is by contrast with the situation in popular discourse, where a good deal of attention has focused on fathers and sons, often with a negative slant, viewing the so-called problem of boys (whether a supposed decline in educational achievement or a rise in antisocial behavior) as the result of father absence and a lack of positive male role models in the lives of boys in modern society. The topic of boys and fatherhood thus stands at the intersection of a number of important areas both of academic interest and of current policy debates and discourses, and this review seeks to include a cross section of those connected discussions from a range of intersecting disciplinary backgrounds. The primary focus is on aspects of boys’ relationships with their fathers, including the influence of those relationships on boys’ developing identities, and the role of fathers in responding to specific challenges in their sons’ lives. The emphasis on relationships complements the broader Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood Studies article on “Fathers” (by Esther McDermott), which focuses on social and structural aspects of fatherhood, as well as its representations. Any review of the academic literature on boys and fatherhood cannot avoid the vexed question of absent fatherhood, which is covered by two sections here: the first attempting to present diverse perspectives on the impact on boys, and the second examining the related debate surrounding the supposed absence of male role models in boys’ lives. The final section reviews the literature on another contentious issue, young fatherhood, and includes a range of perspectives on the implications of boys themselves becoming fathers. Although Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood Studies already includes a review of the literature on teenage fatherhood in the “Teenage Fathers” article (by Andrew M. Kiselica and Mark S. Kiselica), the primary focus there is North American, while the current review seeks both to expand the geographical scope and to reflect more-recent studies. An attempt has been made throughout this review to present a global perspective and to demonstrate the ways in which the issues under discussion play out for boys and their fathers from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.


No single journal seeks to address the breadth of issues covered by this article. However, Boyhood Studies is perhaps the first place to look for new research on boys’ relationships, though the relatively new Families, Relationships and Societies regularly publishes articles on parent-child relations. Both Children & Society and the Journal of Child and Family Studies consider children’s and young people’s lives in their broader social context, with an emphasis in each case on the implications for professional practice. Gender and Education has a good track record of publishing innovative, theoretically informed research on the relational aspects of young masculinities, both within and beyond the school environment. Although there is currently no single academic journal specifically addressing fatherhood issues (Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice about Men as Fathers having been discontinued), both the Journal of Men’s Studies and Men and Masculinities frequently feature articles on men’s family relationships from a critical masculinities perspective.

  • Boyhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 2007–.

    Published four times per year. Explores all aspects of boys’ lives, boyhood, and young masculinities, with a particular focus on issues of gender and identity.

  • Children & Society. 1987–.

    Published six times per year. An interdisciplinary journal, aimed at policymakers, practitioners, and academic researchers seeking an understanding of children and young people in modern societies. Published in the United Kingdom on behalf of the National Children’s Bureau, the journal takes a global perspective on children’s lives and occasionally includes articles on boys and on family relationships.

  • Families, Relationships and Societies. 2012–.

    Published three times per year. Focuses on research and debate in the expanding field of scholarship on families and relationships across the life course, with a strong focus on policy and practice. Fatherhood and parent-child relations are regularly featured as key topics.

  • Gender and Education. 1989–.

    Published eight times per year. Features multidisciplinary and critical discussions of gender and education, defined very broadly, and often features research on boys, families, and youth cultures.

  • Journal of Child and Family Studies. 1992–.

    Published monthly. International journal with an interest in topical issues related to the behavioral health and well-being of children, young people, and their families. Multiple articles on the challenges faced by boys and young men in the context of their family relationships.

  • Journal of Men’s Studies. 1992–.

    Published three times per year. International journal publishing research illustrating the ways that class, culture, race, and sexual orientation shape men’s (including young men’s) experiences.

  • Men and Masculinities. 1998–.

    Published five times per year. International journal featuring research that reflects current theoretical perspectives and diverse methodologies within gender studies and has included material on fatherhood and young masculinities.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.