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Anticipating and Practicing Fatherhood in Spain

Fathers, Childcare and Work: Cultures, Practices and Policies

ISBN: 978-1-78743-042-6, eISBN: 978-1-78743-041-9

Publication date: 1 June 2018


Using data from a qualitative longitudinal sample of 31 non-traditional fathers-to-be interviewed in 2011 and then again in 2013, when the child was about 18 months old, we examine the relationship between prenatal anticipation and the development of ‘positive paternal involvement’ (i.e. an engaged, accessible and responsible type of fatherhood). We expect differences with regard to the antenatal development of a non-normative father identity to explain variations in subsequent paternal involvement. While there might be – and there often is – a discrepancy between fathers’ prenatal intentions and actual practices after childbirth, anticipating concrete needs and actively foreseeing particular paid work adaptations favour the development of a positive paternal involvement. Our analysis reveals the importance of anticipation during pregnancy – that is, the development of an identity as a father and of explicit plans for employment adaptations – in facilitating men’s greater implication in care. The empirical findings also show that non-traditional gender attitudes and favourable working conditions facilitate fathers’ involvement, yet are not enough in themselves to guarantee the development of a positive type of fatherhood covering the three noted dimensions of care. Achieving the latter in Spain will likely require the encouragement of shared parenting responsibilities through normative changes in workplaces, the revision of parental leave policies and the integration of fathers-to-be in prenatal education classes. Our research contributes to shedding new light on the elements that favour a positive paternal involvement, which has the potential to enhance both children’s well-being and gender equality.




This research has been supported by Recercaixa 2014, the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Projects: CSO2013-43482-R, CSO2014-58754-P and CSO2016-80484-R; Juan de La Cierva Formación-Fellowship 2015). The authors have contributed equally to this chapter.


González, M.J., Lapuerta, I., Martín-García, T. and Seiz, M. (2018), "Anticipating and Practicing Fatherhood in Spain", Musumeci, R. and Santero, A. (Ed.) Fathers, Childcare and Work: Cultures, Practices and Policies (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 12), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 17-44.



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