Men in the Lives of Young Children: An International Perspective

Men in the Lives of Young Children: An International Perspective

Men in the Lives of Young Children: An International Perspective

Men in the Lives of Young Children: An International Perspective


This book presents an international perspective on the involvement of men in the lives of young children across a range of differing contexts and from a number of disciplinary perspectives. It takes as a starting point the importance of positive male engagement with young children so as to ensure their optimal development. Past research has revealed however the complexity of studying these relationships and the barriers that exist in families & society which impede the implementation of positive relationships. This book is developed to use new research and educational thinking in order to explore the lived experiences of both fathers and men in edu-care and in addition to considers what it is to be a man in the 21stcentury. As such this work is pertinent, timely and responsive to issues of concern to all those professionals, policy makers and practitioners within education and family services and also to the public in general. The central purpose of the book is to contribute to the debate around key issues connected to the ways in which men can develop secure professional and familial attachments to young children for whom they have a responsibility.

This book was published as a special issue of Early Child Development and Care.


Introduction: Men in caring, parenting
and teaching: exploring men’s roles
with young children

Roy Evans and Deborah Jones Brunel University, Twickenham, UK

Across the international scene common features consistently occur in relation to men’s involvement in the lives of young children. There have been repeated government initiatives to attract more men into educare contexts (Mills et al., 2004) while developing father’s interest in young children have also been on the agenda. However such enterprises have not always been straightforward. At a transnational level difficulties have arisen with regard to both recruitment and retention of males in early childhood contexts and ‘father’s programmes’ have had a chequered history. Such initiatives have taken place against a background of many conflicting discourses. For example, it is perceived that the teaching profession is ‘in crisis’ due to the lack of male teachers. The feminisation of primary teaching is seen to be detrimental—to male pupils in particular (Bleach, 1998; Johannesson, 2004). This view has been promulgated by media, teaching unions and governments alike. Equally, within the public discourse there are oppositional strands. Males in educare must cope with discourses of both risk and adulation. On the one hand, they are hailed as important male role models in a society where absentee fathers are prevalent. On the other, they are subject to suspicion manifested both in homophobia or accusations of abuse. They are perceived variously as super-heroes or demons, the latter being by far the strongest discourse (Jones, 2007). All men who enter and stay in such professions have to deal with suspicion it appears (Martino & Berrill, 2003) and may at certain points be perceived as ‘high risk’ (McWilliam & Jones, 2005). The effect is to effectively keep the numbers of men in educare contexts down.

Within postmodern society the cultural construction of masculinity together with patriarchal assumptions about gendered identities have been challenged. There has been a so-called ‘crisis in masculinity’, where the concept of a single fixed unified masculinity is difficult to justify. Rather, for men, multiple identities/masculinities are on offer from which they may choose. The concepts of hybridised, bricolage . . .

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