Out of Time? The Experience of First-time Fatherhood After 40: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Chaloner, Christopher P. (2020). Out of Time? The Experience of First-time Fatherhood After 40: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

This thesis reports on a study of the lived experience of men who became fathers for the first time in their 40s and 50s. It is therefore study of 'older fatherhood'. As interest in fatherhood has grown over the last 40-plus years there has been little attention paid to the increasing trend towards men becoming fathers at more advanced ages (in their 40s, 50s' and beyond) . There is limited evidence of what it is like to be an 'older father'. This contrasts with comparable parental experiences such as younger fatherhood and older motherhood, both of which have been extensively explored.

Employing interpretative phenomenological analysis, the experiences of ten men who became fathers for the first time in their 40s or 50s are examined. Semi-structured interviews with these older fathers generated a body of data which, when subjected to analysis, produced rich and evocative findings. The process of analysis focused on the meanings the men ascribed to the experience of older fatherhood. Close, interpretative engagement with the data ensured that participants' voices remained at the heart of both the analytic process and subsequent findings.

The men who participated in this study portrayed a positive, optimistic experience of fatherhood; each demonstrating that being an older father contributed to his individual paternal identity. However, they also showed that ambiguity and uncertainty lay at the heart of that experience. Participants encountered uncertain social attitudes towards older fatherhood and were concerned for its impact on their children's lives.

The findings and conclusions presented in this thesis complement, enhance and assist the interpretation of existing evidence concerning the lives of fathers, families and children and thus contribute to the broader field of fatherhood research.

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