Academic journal article Fathering

Metanarrative of the "New Father" and Narratives of Young Finnish First-Time Fathers

Academic journal article Fathering

Metanarrative of the "New Father" and Narratives of Young Finnish First-Time Fathers

Article excerpt

The metanarrative of the "new father" has become well-established in both the public and academic discourses on families. This study analyzes the narratives and storylines about fatherhood told by young Finnish first-time fathers, and examines the interrelationship between these narratives and the metanarrative of the "new father." Three different narratives were identified--the modern, the transition and the postmodern narratives of fathering. Although constructed differently, all three narratives engaged with the metanarrative of the new father by reflecting on it and by drawing a distinction between their perceptions o f fatherhood and the narratives of the past. In conclusion, the idea of the "new father" is firmly embedded in the metanarrative of fatherhood identified in the present Finnish context.

Keywords: the "new father," fatherhood, Finland, metanarrative, narrative inquiry

In the Nordic countries, increasing interest has been shown in fatherhood during last few decades, both in the mass media and in the area of family research. For instance, the father's role in the family was one of the main topics of the "familistic turn" in the Finnish media in the early 2000s (Jallinoja, 2006). Similarly, in June 2010, the New York Times reported how "in Sweden, men can have it all" (Bennhold, 2010), referring to the fact that a family-centered life-style and participation in care work have become a standard for most fathers in Swedish society. However, attention to fatherhood is not restricted to the Nordic countries. According to Miller (2011), fathering has become more visible in the UK. In fact, men's parenting appears to be receiving attention across almost the whole of western society

In the Nordic discourses, attention has been paid to the connections between fatherhood, family policy and work (e.g., Haas & Hwang, 2009; Haataja, 2009; Miller, 2011, p. 48; Pajumets, 2010). For example, a clear effort has been made to increase fathers' participation in children's early nurture and care, for instance by reform of paternal and shareable parental leave systems (e.g., Almqvist, 2008, p. 194; Klinth, 2008; Vuori, 2009, p. 48). Although the proportion of fathers taking parental leave (1) has risen in all of the Nordic countries, in Finland and Sweden, for example, it is only 6 and 20 percent, respectively, of all the parental leave taken (Haataja). However, it is likely that the public fatherhood discourse has affected men's narration of their fatherhood.

Although the methods of studying fatherhood are numerous (Haas & O'Brian, 2010, p. 272), narrative inquiries on fatherhood are relatively few. Exceptions include narrative studies on good fatherhood with expectant fathers (Googdell, Barrus, Meldrum, & Vargo, 2010), and with fathers of special-needs children and religious fathers (e.g., Dollahite, Marks & Olson, 2002; Dollahite, 2004), while narrative inquiries into contemporary "mainstream" fatherhood are very scarce (e.g., Palkovitz, 2002). In Finland, some scholars have recognized the role and possibilities of narratives in researching fatherhood, for example, to highlight the transition to fatherhood as a turning point in men's lives and life stories (Mykkanen, 2008, 2010), to study fatherhood of middle-age (Korhonen, 1999) or to explain the metanarratives of fatherhood (Kekale, 2007).

This article forms part of a larger longitudinal study examining the development of narratives by first-time fathers in the early years of their fatherhood. The study is being conducted at the Department of Education, University of Jyvaskyla, and is among the first attempts to gather narratives on contemporary (Nordic) fatherhood. Although much tacit knowledge has been accumulated and many accounts given on what 21st century fathers are like and what they think, research-based knowledge on the stories men tell is lacking. In this particular study we explore the narratives of Finnish first-time fathers as examples of Nordic fatherhood-narratives, and relate them to the metanarrative of the "new father. …

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