Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Contemporary Parenting: Challenges and Issues

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Contemporary Parenting: Challenges and Issues

Article excerpt

Constructing Fatherhood: Discourses and Experiences. Deborah Lupton & Lesley Barclay. London: Sage. 1997. 176 pp. ISBN 0-76195341-8. $24.00 paper.

Deborah Lupton and Lesley Barclay have written a sophisticated analysis of fatherhood in latetwentieth century Australia, Britain, and the United States. These authors combine poststructuralist and psychoanalytic perspectives from an interdisciplinary stance. Their thesis is that in recent decades, major social changes have influenced the way parenthood is understood. Although there has been significant attention to motherhood in the popular and scientific press, fatherhood has been relatively neglected. Furthermore, they suggest, there are paradoxes in the views of fatherhood held by contemporary western societies. The discourse of the "new" and more involved father often is at odds with the persistent view that fathers are the economic mainstay of the family. Thus they see fatherhood as both amorphous and the focus of intense political debate.

In the first half of this brief book, they analyze modem fatherhood by exploring the scientific and popular literature on the topic. They present the poststructuralist perspective and describe in detail such concepts as discourse, subjectivity, and gender. They also introduce psychoanalytic views of the development of the self. They provide a careful analysis from a poststructuralist position of how fatherhood has been discussed in the scientific and popular literature. For example, they demonstrate that concerns about the need for men to spend more time with their children have been around for at least a century. In contrast to the scientific literature, the popular media have focused more on the ways that the experience of fatherhood allows men to express their "feminine" side and to have and express powerful emotional experiences.

Lupton and Barclay describe their series of interviews with fathers from 16 Australian couples, beginning shortly before the birth of their first child and concluding when that child was between 16 and 18 months. …

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