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Social Work: Research


Fathers and Fatherhood

Dr Gary Clapton

I have been interested in fathers and fatherhood since my PhD and beyond. My PhD, 'Perceptions of Fatherhood', completed in 2000, was a study of birth fathers - men whose children had been given up for adoption. It is available through the archived theses at the University of Edinburgh.

More recently, I have been active with Fathers Network Scotland in seeking to change Scottish policy and practice in relation to fathers.

I am presently engaged with the Scottish Government policy decision-making process and is a member of the Scottish Government’s National Advisory Panel on Fathers. I have delivered a series of contributions to this Panel including two papers: The National Parenting Strategy (Scottish Government, 2012): Policy, Strategic and Practice Implications for Fathers and the Fathers’ National Advisory Panel (2013) and Fathers and Fathering: Changing Roles, Changing Expectations (2012).  My call for ‘father-proofing’ of services (‘Scottish fathers: an absence in Scottish policies’ in Scotland: the best place in the world to bring up children?, (2012)  is here:

and Where’s Dad: Father-proofing Your Work, 2013)

This work has fed into the process of putting fathers higher up the policy agenda.  I am also a peer-reviewer of publications of Health Scotland (NHS).

Example of recent activity

In January 2014 the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee launched an enquiry into the current provision of services and support groups for fathers; societal attitudes towards lone/unmarried fathers; and parental rights and responsibilities for fathers. I was asked to present research to the Committee in March.  My research studied publicity about services for parents and children (web-based, booklets and leaflets etc) and the way that fathers, when depicted, are portrayed.  The research shows that in crucial areas of services' publicity, images of fathers are absent and families are described as such but pictured as without a father. Elsewhere, when fathers are mentioned, e.g. in case examples, they are always described in negative terms such as alcoholics or abusive.  I also looked at the images that were called up when the word 'parent' was entered into Council services website search facilities and, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of images across education and social services, showed only women.  I looked through the various websites of Government, the NHS, councils and third sector agencies and found this treatment of fathers fairly consistent.  I made the point to the Committee that this is as much detrimental treatment of mothers as it is fathers, conveying the message that children's health and well-being is mothers' sole responsibility.  The research was congratulated by members of the Committee and its report is available here:

My presentation can be accessed here: