Young parents are often seen to be a risk and even a problem in today’s society. Young fathers in particular are assumed to be feckless, irresponsible, or absent from the family home. Despite compelling evidence that they have a desire to be positively involved in their children’s lives, young fathers continue to experience exclusion and stigmatisation, including in professional support contexts.
There is therefore a pressing need to see young fathers in a different way and to turn these ‘common sense’, yet often unfounded, ideas on their head. Since 2016, Dr Anna Tarrant, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Lincoln, has been conducting social research with the objective of doing just that.
Building on existing evidence, the ‘Responding to Young Fathers in a Different Way’ project aimed to counteract these pervasive and negative perceptions of young fathers.
The study, which was funded by the Leeds Social Sciences Institute, employed new and innovative approaches, including action research. Its key activities and findings have informed national family policy, changed professional cultures, and enhanced the lives of young fathers and their families.
Dr Anna Tarrant explained: “The study achieved this by adopting more father-inclusive and gender equal approaches, with the aim of listening to the voices of young fathers and supporting them with their specific needs and requirements.”
As part of the project, a London-based initiative called the ‘Young Dads Collective’ (YDC) was created in Leeds to empower young fathers to become experts by experience, supporting and training them in advocacy work on behalf of other young fathers, and encouraging them to engage in practitioner training and consultation.
This work is now being extended again in a new project called ‘Following Young Fathers Further’ (FYFF), which commenced in January this year, and which will utilise £1.2 million of funding that Dr Tarrant and the project have received from the UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship Scheme.
Dr Anna Tarrant, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Lincoln
'Following Young Fathers Further’ is a four-year study that will advance the evidence base about the lived experiences and support needs of young men who are fathers. It has the ambitious aims of developing longer-term understandings of the parenting journeys and support needs of young fathers, while also adding to the knowledge of young fatherhood in international contexts.
Closer to home, the creation of a ‘Young Dads Collective’ in Grimsby will establish a unique partnership between national charities and local authorities, including Coram Family and Childcare (London), NSPCC (Grimsby), YMCA Humber, Leeds City Council, and North East Lincolnshire Council. This work will assess the impact of the YDC approach on the lives of young fathers and their families and also on local policies aimed at these members of society.
Dr Tarrant added: ‘Following Young Fathers Further’ is a significant and exciting opportunity to implement a compassionate and truly participatory social policy and support environment in the UK. It will provide an extended evidence base and offer solutions that will benefit young fathers, their families, and wider civil society.”
The Following Young Fathers Further’ project is also a collaborator on a new Nuffield funded study examining the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on low-income families, as well as associated social security responses.
The project team includes Dr Laura Way and Linzi Ladlow, who are both Research Fellows in Family Life, and Ben Handysides who is providing administrative support. All are based in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Lincoln.
Meet the Expert
Dr Anna Tarrant
College of Social Science
Dr Anna Tarrant is an Associate Professor in Sociology and a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, Round 2. Based in the School of Social and Political Sciences, her research has broadly focused on men’s care responsibilities and support needs, particularly in low-income families.