Brock University

Parenting Culture and Experiences I

The focus of this session is on contemporary cultural understandings of motherhood and fatherhood, and the implications of these understandings for the experience of mothers and fathers. Papers are welcome which address social constructions of motherhood and/or fatherhood, as well as those which explore the structural factors that reflect, interact with, and reinforce collective subjectivity, and those which examine the experiences of mothers and fathers within current structural and cultural contexts.

Session Organizer: Gillian Ranson, Calgary, ; Glenda Wall, Wilfrid Laurier,


The Involved Father and Gender Equity Project

Ian DeGeer, Wilfrid Laurier University,

The study explored the positive roles that fathers, organizations working with diverse fathers, and the fatherhood sector in Ontario in general can play in promoting gender equality, healthy, equal relationships, and ending violence against women in all its forms.

Fifty-three (53) fathers took part in nine focus groups in communities across Ontario revealing distinct narratives regarding  involvement with their children and how their involvement promoted gender equality.

This presentation will provide an overview of the major findings associated with this study and implications regarding service delivery and the conceptualization of fatherhood in North American Society.


Circumstances or Ideals? Understanding Parental Leave Use by Canadian Fathers

Judy Beglaubter, University of Toronto,

While the consensus from the international literature is that fathers tend not to take transferable parental leave that couples can divide how they wish, little is known about fathers who do share leave time with their partners. Because of its gender-neutral policy, Canada (apart from Quebec) offers a unique opportunity to explore the interactive processes through which couples approach and negotiate the decision to share parental leave. Since the gendered boundaries where couples experience and handle conflict may indicate potential tipping points in the move towards less gendered parenting, it is important to understand when and why some couples come to share parental leave. Yet rather than simply viewing leave-taking men as the bearers of a progressive fatherhood, my research reveals that it is necessary to consider how the parenting arrangement couples choose are grounded in the material and social conditions of their daily lives. By asking more than 30 Toronto and area couples, in which fathers took at least 6 weeks paid leave, how they made the decision to share the leave time, which factors were most important in their decision-making process, and how they weighed their circumstances and ideals, my research confirms the significance of the couple’s interactional context to their decision-making and provides insight into the ways some couples reproduce and resist the “logic of gendered choices” (Risman 1998).


Fathers as writers: the (global) sharing of fathering experiences through memoirs and blogs

Gillian Ranson, University of Calgary ,

This paper draws on research from a larger project which investigates fathers’ caregiving of very young children from a phenomenological perspective, both as (observed) practice and as lived experience. Most analyses of “lived experience” depend on fathers’ accounts of their experiences, which are conventionally explored through interviewing. Here I review two alternative forms of such accounts: fathers’ published memoirs of their fathering experiences, and fathers’ online blogs. Both these sources are distinctive in that they constitute information volunteered by a particular segment of fathers wanting (for whatever reason) to make their experiences public. Because these genres are relatively new arrivals, they have attracted almost no scholarly attention – and yet their growing collective presence has the potential to challenge many conventional understandings of fathers and fathering practices. In this paper I present an overview of both genres, and a preliminary analysis of the material selected writer fathers choose to present, about themselves as fathers, and about the hands-on caregiving work they are undertaking with their children.


Without a Home - The Impact of Environmental Disasters on the Family: How the 2013 High River, Alberta Floods Impacts Parents, Children, and the Day-to-Day Functioning of the Family

Caroline McDonald-Harker, Mount Royal University,

Environmental disasters not only result in severe physical damages and consequences for community infrastructures, but also result in serious social consequences for individuals residing in these communities.  One group of individuals who are particularly impacted by disasters is the family unit.  However, in a Canadian context, very little is known about the experiences of the family following disasters, particularly in relation to their struggles, their coping strategies, and their needs.  Even less is known about the techniques that parents employ in order to care for, support, and assist each other as well as their children in coping, re-adjusting and establishing a new normal post-disaster.  In this paper I will discuss how the family is impacted by environmental disasters, by drawing on the specific case of the June 2013 Alberta, Canada floods, the costliest disaster in Canadian history with damages exceeding $5 billion dollars.  I will specifically focus on the small rural community of High River, Alberta which was the hardest hit by the floods.  I will discuss communication, coping, and caring in family life post-disaster in order to address: 1) How family life is altered by the disaster context; 2) How experiencing a disaster influences family relationships, interactions, functioning, and parenting; and 3) How immigrant and indigenous families in specific are impacted by disasters.  Findings are based on face-to-face interviews with parents of families in this community.



© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie