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  • Publication
    Fathers, Fathering, and Fatherhood across Cultures: Convergence or Divergence?
    (University College Dublin. School of Applied Social Science, 2015-05) ;
    Parenting research in large-scale societies initially focused on White, North American, and middle-class mothers and fathers. Building on these roots, interest in and research on fathers, fathering, and fatherhood became more catholic and spread worldwide. Extant research is now available from cultures in every continent, but the coverage within and between societies varies widely. Uneven coverage makes cross-cultural comparisons difficult but when possible they often challenge previous assumptions made in Western cultures. For instance, physical play as an essential hallmark of father interactive style is not found in Taiwan, India, Africa, and Thailand and few differences are found in play activities between mothers and fathers or by gender. Approaches to fathering vary widely from a primary concern with being a disciplinarian and provider to those focusing on nurturing child care with many possible types and combinations occurring in between. Moreover, national variances in Western approaches to fathering, and especially to father involvement in the early years post-partum, are increasingly mediated by the availability and non-availability of ‘father-friendly’ social policies, such as paid parental leave (Rush and Seward, 2014). Non-Western fathering varies more dramatically than fathering practices in the Western world, which has in the main, albeit not uniformly, dismantled the patriarchal power of fathers over the course of the 20th century (Therborn, 2004) and replaced kinships or familial based responses to child welfare and social protection with welfare state arrangements (Sommestad, 1998). Almost all research findings on fathers across cultures since 1990 suggests some change in fatherhood in the direction of expecting greater involvement by fathers, yet changes in fathering or the conduct of fathers has been slower and lagged behind. Although, in some Western countries, especially the Nordic countries, the gap between social expectation and actual father involvement is lessening because of the introduction of father-friendly parental leave policies (Rush, 2015). The history, tradition, economy, and geography for each culture play important roles in this change and the uneven rates of change across cultures or lack thereof. For fatherhood evidence suggest a growing convergence of expectations but fathering practices are still very diverse or exhibiting a convergence to divergence.