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Fathers across three family generations in Polish, Irish and UK origin white families

Grant reference: RES-062-23-1677

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Impact Report details

Fathers across three family generations in Polish, Irish and UK origin white families
The project has generated a great deal of research/ academic impact; 8 articles in academic journals including 2 German academic journals, a book chapter in a book edited in Finland (based on selected papers from an international conference), including methodological papers have been written (one accepted and one submited). It will have further scientific impact as the data are being analysed by an NCRM Node. The PI was interviewed on the Today Proramme (BBC4) on changes in fatherhood.

Primary contributor

Author Julia Brannen

Additional contributors

Contributor Ann Mooney
Contributor Valerie Wigfall


Part of the scientific impact arose because (a) the two migrant groups included have been overlooked in intergenerational family research and (b) fatherhood has been little studied intergenerationally. As a result the study has produced new substantive understandings of changes in fatherhood including those families who have experienced migration. It has also produced new findings on children’s perspectives on fatherhood. Theoretically, the study developed understandings of processes of intergenerational transmission in families particularly in relation to men and the ways in which migration complicates intergenerational transmission. Methodologically, the study contributed to capacity building in relation to the application of narrative interviews and narrative analysis in intergenerational family studies; how to recruit and sample diverse intergenerational families; in its use of photo elicitation as a supplementary method in helping fathers and sons to reflect upon fatherhood; and in developing a range of methods with sons in the third generation (5 to 17). The study is further developing research capacity through secondary analysis of the data set funded under NCRM’s node Novella (Narratives of varied everyday lives and linked approaches). The study has in addition led to significant new research; the data and a follow up study will form part of a Norwegian study funded by the Norwegian Research Council.

1. Today’s fathers are more involved with, and closer to, their children. ‘Hands on’ fathers were exceptions and employed in low status jobs - shift workers, part-timers or ‘stay at home’ dads. Brannen, J, Parutis, V, Mooney, A, Wigfall, V (2011) Fathers and intergenerational transmission in social context Ethics and Education 6 (2) 155-171 Brannen, J (2012) Fatherhood in the context of migration: An intergenerational approach Zeitschrift fur Biographieforsschung, oral history und lebenverlaufsanalyses BIOS, jg 24 Heft 2 267-282 Mooney, A, Brannen, J, Wigfall, V, and Parutis, V. (in press 2013) Fatherhood and Employment, Community, Work and Family 2. Children appreciated their fathers spending time with them and unhappy about fathers working too much. Brannen, J, Wigfall, V and Mooney, A (2012) Sons’ Perspectives on Time with Dads Diskurs Kindheits- und Jugendforschung Heft 1-2012, S. 25-41 3. Migration had a negative effect on fathers’ time for parenting. Brannen, J, Mooney, A, Wigfall, V and Parutis, V (in press) Fatherhood and transmission in the context of migration: An Irish and a Polish case International Migration Brannen, J Mooney, A and Wigfall, V (in press) Fatherhood across the generations: case studies of Polish, Irish and white British men in Eriikka Oinonen & Katja Repo (eds). 4. Articles on methodological contribution and innovation Two submitted; one on narrative analysis to Sociologicalresearchonline and one covering photo elicitation to International Journal of Social Research Methods Wigfall, V, Brannen, J, Mooney, A and Parutis, V (in press) Finding the right man; Recruiting fathers in inter-generational families across ethnic groups, Qualitative Research

Scientific impacts have come from the delivery of invited papers at conferences overseas: Finland , Sweden , Germany , and Switzerland . An invited paper was given at a seminar at the Institute of Advanced Studies Delmendorf . In addition two papers were given at seminars in the TCRU Institute of Education seminar series and a paper was given in Bergen Norway at the Department of Sociology. Several papers were given at a one day end of project seminar organised by the project team in London in 2011 to which speakers from other European countries were invited to discuss the themes of the seminar; generations, migration and fatherhood. The work is being widely recognised in a range of countries; the PI has received many requests for preprint publications from researchers all over the world. Scientific impact is already being achieved through a strong record of publications - 8 peer reviewed articles published or soon to be published in a wide range of journals: • methodological journals (3); • one German sociological journal on the life course; • one German youth journal; • one education journal; • one migration journal; • one journal on community, work and family. Scientific impact will also be achieved via an edited book published in Finland. A book proposal has been submitted and favourably reviewed. The archived data provide opportunities for secondary analysis of the rich life story data and capacity building (in Novella, an NCRM Node).

Outputs and findings were targeted at a range of disciplines including sociologists, psychologists, geographers, historians and social policy researchers. The published work also targeted social scientists more broadly, in particular those concerned with research methodology and the use of biographical and narrative methods in particular. Particular substantive fields targeted concerned researchers working on the study of generations and family lives, those studying migration, and those concerned with employment and the interface with family life. The project data have been archived and are providing a resource for a wide range of researchers in the future. They are currently being used for secondary analysis by a team at NCRM’s Novella Node. The work has been used in the PI’s teaching on doctoral courses and visiting researchers at the University of Trondheim and at the University of Bergen. The work will become even more widely known in Scandinavian countries when the Norwegian study that will collaborate with the existing study begins at the end of 2012.

The work has had some societal impact in raising awareness of the experiences of fathers including those whose lives are shaped by migration. It has contributed to debates about how men’s lives as fathers and workers are changing, in particular their emotional nvolvement with children and the conditions under which it becomes feasible for men to engage significantly in their children’s care. It has also highlighted children’s wishes and desires and concerns about fathering. The study afforded recognition to men that their stories are of interest especially those who had experienced harsh conditions in childhood , as did Irish grandfathers and many Polish fathers and grandfathers. The project may well have had a consciousness raising impact. The study engages with public policy debates about the importance of active parenting. It sheds light on the experiences and the models that the current father generation brings with it to parenting their own children.

In particular the project has provided supporting evidence that men seek to be more involved in time and emotional terms with their children than their fathers were. It also demonstrated younger children’s desires and appreciation of time spent with them by their fathers, their desire for demonstrativeness, and their emotional concern when fathers work long hours and are stressed by their employment (as many did). Societal output includes; Helping to change stereotypical views of fathers and fathering through an ‘appearance’ on Radio 4 Today programme (21 Feb 2012) on a topical issue of the day concerning men’s inability to relate physically to sons. Helping to inform and provide feedback both on research but also on a topic that is scarcely addressed in some contexts, in particular to grandfathers living in Poland and the migrant Polish fathers in the UK; this was achieved via a booklet of the study findings translated into Polish. Similarly feedback was provided via a briefing booklet to UK-based research participants. Copies of our research briefings were sent to cultural and other organisations who helped in recruitment and publicising the research. For example, the summary was made available on the website of the Fatherhood Institute. Other outputs with societal impact include a project overview that appeared in the ESRC’s Society Today and in Thomas Coram Research Unit’s Annual Review. Societal impact wil also be achieved by talking about the research to young people via an invited talk to 6th form students on the research (to be given in Feb 2013).

Societal impacts were achieved in the following ways: 1. Via a Radio 4 peak time political programme – The Today Programme 2. Via research briefings translated into Polish for Polish migrants and their families in Poland; and Polish organisations who helped in recruitment 3. Via research briefing sent to UK and Irish origin participants 4. Via research briefing sent to a wide range of organisations (cultural, public sector, educational, parenting organisations, workplaces, embassies and media) 5. Invited talk to 6th formers in 6th Form College

The study had impacts on the general public, school students, cultural organisations, parenting organisations and websites, research participants from three ethnic groups and their families and social networks.

First, we would expect growing interest in the topic of intergenerational families in the context of the following societal trends relating to the ‘demographic pact’, increased longevity, continuing debates around migration, a growing resurgence of interest in intergenerational justice, and the increasing importance of intergenerational family transfers in the context of stagnating family incomes and benefit cuts. Second, in terms of future academic impact, it is expected that the work will have more impact when the book which will be essential reading on undergraduate and graduate courses is completed. Third, because of NCRM Novella Node funding the data set is being further analysed and used as part of capacity building in narrative analysis. Fourth, because of Norwegian funding for further use of the project data and because this will involve a few follow up interviews with our research participants the work will have longitudinal value and will also become even more widely known in Nordic countries.

Some impacts were unexpected. First, we were surprised how strongly committed the men were to the the study and the life story approach to interviewing. All have agreed to a being contacted again. Second, we were also surprised at how well the range of methods involving visual methods with the younger children worked. Third, the interest among researchers in Germany was unexpected. Given a strong life course tradition and a strong conceptual interest in generations in German social science (but relatively little German work available in English) it was somewhat unexpected to experience such interest in this study (see two articles in peer reviewed German journals which we were invited to submit). Fourth, it was heartening, as well as interesting, to discover that the academic journals in which we published wanted us to present in our papers indepth case analysis of the qualitative material. Fifth, the general media interest in the topic while unexpected was triggered by a high profile figure who had talked publicly about his own fathering. This underlines the point that the impact of research, at least as it is taken up in the mass media, can be highly opportunistic.

The work was limited to three ethnic groups; those of UK origin; those of Irish origin (albeit it was once the dominant migrant group in the UK) and current Polish migrants (many of whom may return to Poland in the long to medium term). It is hence a rather specific study which may restrict the interest taken in it. On the positive side, the project has extended intergenerational family research beyond white British families.

Cite this outcome


Brannen, Julia et al. Fathers across three family generations in Polish, Irish and UK origin white families: ESRC Impact Report, RES-062-23-1677. Swindon: ESRC


Brannen Julia et al. Fathers across three family generations in Polish, Irish and UK origin white families: ESRC Impact Report, RES-062-23-1677. Swindon: ESRC.