What do men perceive to be the ‘right time’ for parenthood? Past literature and future explorations
The vast majority of research, discussion and debate regarding reproductive timings is concerned with women. This may overemphasise female responsibility, leaving men’s positions and behaviours neglected. Despite a growing interest in men’s experiences in relation to reproduction, the majority of research involving men has been concerned with fatherhood, leaving numerous other aspects of reproduction, including desires for parenthood and pre-conception planning, neglected. The ways in which men’s perceptions, intentions and behaviours configure with those of women, and are implicated in trends of delayed childbearing, has received scant attention. Furthermore there is growing evidence that men too experience age-related fertility decline, making this topic particularly timely and worthy of sociological exploration. The first part of this paper summarises empirical findings of existing research regarding the factors men identify as shaping their reproductive trajectories including age, financial and material security, relationship circumstances and emotional readiness. An overview of key arguments and areas of debate will be provided including: the extent to which competing discourses of ‘breadwinner father’ and ‘emotionally engaged father’ impact on reproductive timings; the extent to which men’s reproductive trajectories are governed by pervasive assumptions about a normative life course; and debates about whether men contribute to ‘problems’ of delayed childbearing by acting as a ‘drag’ on childbearing or whether men’s roles in delaying indicate a commitment to good and moral parenting. The second part of the paper describes a current UK-based, sociological doctoral study into men’s perceptions and intentions regarding reproductive timings. It discusses the rationale for framing the study within the philosophical framework ‘Critical Studies of Men and Masculinities’, an epistemological approach which arises from feminist theory, explores the gendered nature of men’s lives, and seeks to challenge hegemonic masculinity and gendered power relations. Overall, the paper identifies gaps in the literature on men and reproductive timings, and sets out how the doctoral study aims to address these gaps as well as its intended intellectual and empirical contribution to the field.
Citation : Law, C. (2016) What do men perceive to be the ‘right time’ for parenthood? Past literature and future explorations. paper presented to the Postponing Childbirth, Extending Fertility? Biotechnologies and the Transformation of Reproductive Life Symposium, De Montfort University, Leicester, 12-13 May 2016
Research Group : Reproduction Research Group
Research Institute : Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)