Fathers, and their parenting, have never had such a high profile. Questions are raised continually by politicians and policy makers, and in the press and media regarding what it means to be a father, and how fathers are managing parenthood in the context of changing demographics and cultural expectations (Working Families, 2017). Both everyday fathering and the situations of celebrity fathers are increasingly a central focus within news and features. Recent debates have included whether fatherhood is less challenging among the privileged (following comments by the UK's Prince William that he finds fathering hard) to what the nature of paternal–child relationships should be post-separation or divorce (for example, in the recent case of actor Brad Pitt), alongside more prosaic attempts to document the everyday experiences and reflections of fathers in mainstream lifestyle columns and blogs that receive large volumes of traffic.
Over the past 30 years, there has been an extraordinary growth in research on fathers, fatherhood and fathering (Featherstone, 2009; Özbilgin et al, 2011, Mazzuccelli and Bosoni, 2011; Miller and Dermott, 2015). Studies of everyday lives, attitudes and practices among men with children have become a site of intense investigation across a range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, social policy, geography, law and history as well as more applied areas such as social work and health (Gatrell et al, 2012). Central questions addressed in this research include: What constitutes ‘a father’ and ‘fathering’?; How has fatherhood changed over time? To what extent do men's experiences of paternity vary depending on age, ethnicity, class and other significant social characteristics and across countries? More recently, within the burgeoning field of fatherhood research itself, new questions have been raised over the emphasis that should be placed on studying the practices of individual men who identify as fathers, parental practices that are defined as ‘doing’ fathering, and broader cultural representations of fatherhood (Dermott and Miller, 2015).
The range of research questions posed by academics exploring fatherhood has, in turn, led to the adoption of a wide range of methods. This tendency is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that research on fatherhood, although often centred in the social sciences, has no one single disciplinary base. Fatherhood researchers, as a group, then tend to have adopted a pragmatic approach to methodology using qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method research designs as appropriate to the question in hand.