Involved fatherhood in the Nordic context: dominant narratives, divergent approaches


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This paper focuses on narratives and practices of ‘ involved fatherhood ’ , the ideal of an emotionally present and nurturing father. The geographical context of the study is Iceland, one of the ‘ father-friendly ’ Nordic welfare states. Of particular concern in this paper are connections between involved fatherhood and constructions of masculinity. The emergence of involved fatherhood is often linked to changes in masculinity ideals, from ‘ old ’ to ‘ new ’ . Our analysis, which is based on qualitative interviews with parents of young children, indicates a more complex picture. Our point of departure is the narrative of involved fatherhood which is dominant in Nordic policy formation. This narrative is strongly linked to early childhood care and the development of fathers ’ individual caring practices – often presented as a prerequisite for gender equal parenting. Other types of fathering are positioned in contrast, representing outdated and deficit forms of fathering. Our analysis suggests, however, that involved fatherhood is portrayed and enacted through practices linked to both ‘ orthodox ’ and ‘ inclusive ’ masculinity, both among middle-class fathers who identify with the primary carer narrative and a more diverse group of fathers who do not. We conclude that involved fatherhood comes in different forms that should be further explored in terms of their respective potential and limitations for gender equal parenting.


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