The “Sensory Deprivation Tank”: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Men’s Expectations of First-Time Fatherhood

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Few studies have investigated expectations of fatherhood in men without children, and none within the age bracket most often associated with new fatherhood. Therefore, the objective of this qualitative study was to gain in-depth understanding of young men’s beliefs and perceptions of that role. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of interview transcripts identified 3 key themes: The contemporary model father, perceived threat to life as we know it, and, the central theme, an unforeseeable future. Analysis revealed that while participants held broad expectations to be emotionally and physically involved as well as economically responsible fathers, their views often lacked specificity, consideration of meaning, and practical notions about how expectations could be fulfilled. We explain the lack of development in men’s conceptualization of fatherhood across emerging adulthood through hegemonic masculinity, identity theory, and life course perspectives. The current study provides a rationale for promoting increased discussion around fatherhood in the preconception period to help lessen the turbulent nature of men’s transition through pregnancy.

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