Supporting a caring fatherhood in cyberspace – an analysis of communication about caring within an online forum for fathers

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Abstract

Supporting a caring fatherhood in cyberspace – an analysis of communication about caring within an online forum for fathers

Background:

Today's parents seek out social support on the Internet. A key motivation behind the choice to go online is the need for more experience based information. In recent years, new fathers have increasingly taken on an active parental role. Men's support for their caring activities for infants on the Internet needs attention.

Aim:

The aim was to describe communication about caring activities for infants among men who visited an Internet-based forum for fathers and elaborate on the dimensions of support available in the forum.

Method:

An archival and cross-sectional observational forum study was undertaken using principles for conducting ethnographic research online: “nethnography”. A total of 1203 pages of data from an Internet forum for fathers were gathered and analysed.

Result:

Support for a caring fatherhood in cyberspace can be understood as fathers' communicating encouragement, confirmation and advice. The findings show that important ways of providing support through the forum included a reciprocal sharing of concerns – how to be a better father – in relation to caring for an infant. Concerns for their child's well-being and shared feelings of joy and distress in everyday life were recurrent supportive themes in the communication. Information gained from contacting others in similar situations is one important reason for the fathers' use of the Internet.

Discussion:

Support offered in this kind of forum can be considered as a complement to formal support. Professionals can use it to provide choices for fathers who are developing themselves as caregivers without downplaying the parental support offered by formal health care regimes.

Further research:

Online support will probably be one of the main supporting strategies for fathers in Scandinavia. Caring and nursing researchers need to closely monitor support activities that develop, and over time, as these ill likely become an important source of support for people.

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