This new three year study, based in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds, addresses an important and under-researched topic: the lived experiences and support needs of young fathers. These are defined as fathers under the age of 25, a quarter of whom are in their teens.
We currently know relatively little about how and why young men become fathers at an early age, how young fatherhood is constituted and practiced in varied socio-economic and familial contexts, and what impact policy interventions or other kinds of support may have on these processes. Very little research to date has taken a dynamic approach, exploring how young men’s past experiences may impact on their current lives and future aspirations, and what barriers and enablers exist to improving their life chances, and potentially the life chances of their children. An overview of policy and practice developments across statutory and third sectors, and insights into the effectiveness of current provision in meeting the needs of young fathers are also lacking.
Building on our baseline study (Neale and Lau, Policy Briefing, 2011) the broad aim of this research is to address these gaps in knowledge, using Qualitative Longitudinal research methods and working collaboratively with policy and practice partners. The research entails the following strands of activity:
- Longitudinal tracking of a sample of young fathers, building on our baseline study
- Secondary analysis of existing data on young fathers to enhance the evidence base
- Longitudinal case study evaluation of local service provision – the Early Start service
- A mapping and inventory of cross sector services and initiatives in the UK.
- Development of the Following Father’s network and related events/dissemination.
Following Fathers Network
The Following Fathers Network is an electronic advisory and discussion forum, bringing together an interdisciplinary and cross sector mix of researchers, research brokers, policy makers and practitioners with an interest in young fatherhood. The network will feed ideas into the development of this project, and operate as a forum for discussion, debate and the sharing of knowledge and good practice on young fatherhood.
The main mechanism for this will be the project website. We will produce regular bulletins on the progress of the study for the benefit of the network, provide a discussion board to share knowledge and stimulate debate, and organise dissemination events (including academic seminars and a practitioner conference) to which network members will be invited. If you would be interested in joining the Following Fathers Network, we’d be pleased to hear from you. Please contact us: Carmen Lau-Clayton firstname.lastname@example.org; or Bren Neale email@example.com.