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Keywords:

  • fatherhood;
  • couple relationships;
  • families;
  • qualitative socio-cultural discourses;
  • family policy;
  • parenthood education

The experiences of new fatherhood: a socio-cultural analysis¶ For most men, first-time fatherhood involves significant changes in self-identity and their relationship with their female partner. This paper presents some findings from a longitudinal, qualitative study into the first 6 months of new fatherhood for a group of 15 Australian men. The discussion draws on a series of semistructured interviews undertaken on a minimum of four occasions from a few days before the child was born until 5–6 months after birth. We found that first-time fathering in contemporary western society requires men to be simultaneously provider, guide, household help and nurturer. The demands of these roles, and the tensions they sometimes produce, challenge men's relationships with their female partners, the meaning and place of work in their lives and their sense of self as competent adults. Almost all the men we interviewed found the early weeks and months of fatherhood more uncomfortable than rewarding, despite looking forward to fatherhood very positively. Their experience appeared more closely aligned to their difficulties with meeting social expectations and roles rather than individual deficits.