'Working at it': context, relationality and moral reasoning in narratives of fathering beyond couplehood

Philip, Georgia Clare (2010). 'Working at it': context, relationality and moral reasoning in narratives of fathering beyond couplehood. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ed70


This thesis supports earlier research suggesting that new contexts of fathering can bring 'transformative' experiences of care. At the same time, however, it also demonstrates the persistent 'pull' of a gendered model of parenting, which can normalise different and unequal levels of caring responsibility without disrupting a sense of the equal moral status of fathers and mothers. The research involved a qualitative study of previously resident, biological fathers' accounts of fathering after divorce or separation, focusing on 23 fathers who have maintained contact with their children over time and across households. The study entailed in depth interviews with fathers who were fathering in a range of contexts with a variety of caring arrangements in place. Taking a feminist perspective, the thesis presents post-couple fathering as a complex moral and relational process shaped deeply, though not straightforwardly, by gendered patterns of caring for children. It also makes particular use of the feminist ethics of care as an analytic framework and argues that this, together with the concept of relationality, can be used to think about autonomy, responsibility, gender and power in productive and insightful ways. The analysis showed that fathers perceive fathering beyond couplehood to occur in connection with others, and that it is particularly interconnected with mothers. It also revealed that the experience of post-couple fathering can produce an intensified focus on the quality of relationships and a heightened perception of the ongoing processes of moral and relational work involved. Further to this, three broader theoretical implications are raised: that a concept of fairness is in play during the relational and moral work of co-parenting; that a gendered moral space exists in which such work takes place, and that gendered patterns of care continue to act as a powerful framework in the process of renegotiating parental roles.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions