Caring is Masculine: Stay-at-Home Fathers and Masculine Identity

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Abstract

This qualitative study examined 25 stay-at-home fathers (SAHFs) in the United States and their lived experiences through the perspective of the theory of caring masculinities. Results from semistructured telephone interviews demonstrated that the majority of SAHFs voluntarily opted to be full-time caregivers, named financial reasons for becoming a SAHF, reported high levels of satisfaction in caring for their children, and experienced little change in their relationship with their spouse or partner as a result of being a SAHF. Major findings included the potential change in attitudes and masculine identities that accompany becoming a SAHF, men’s emotional connection with others, and their increased respect for caregiving. Overall, SAHFs reported incorporating aspects of masculine and feminine qualities to develop a new masculine identity that best supports their caregiving role and experiences. In addition, SAHFs identified social isolation and mixed reactions from people as the 2 main challenges against constructing and maintaining their new masculinity; they also reported support from multiple social networks (e.g., partners, female family members, other SAHFs) as a means to successfully overcome such challenges. The results are further discussed in the context of the caring masculinities framework and suggestions are provided for future research.

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