In 2014, I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship; funding to complete a publishable piece of research across a three year period (2014-2017). This page describes this project. The ideas presented here may be subject to change because this information is based on the research proposal. However this page is intended to provide background and an indication of my expectations for the project. Many of the blog posts, Tweets and news items featured on this blog site relate to the work I am doing on this project. The project now has a dedicated website that can be viewed here.
Title: Men’s experiences of family life and multiple care responsibilities in low-income localities.
The proposed project is an investigation of the everyday care practices of fathers and grandfathers in a low-income locality in Leeds. Exploring the otherwise invisible and taken-for-granted care practices of men who have many responsibilities but limited resources will enable interrogation of the moral and ethical decisions that inform practices of care, and how these are negotiated in contexts of constraint. Findings from an ambitious, mixed methods approach to qualitative longitudinal research will provide a unique evidence base that recognises the significance of men’s care commitments within these contexts, the factors that underpin them, and their impact on individuals and society.
The study aims to explore the impact of economic insecurity on the everyday care practices of men (including fathers and grandfathers) and the extent to which socio-cultural and historical factors influence the practical, moral and ethical decisions that they make in relation to providing care in contexts of constraint. This is vitally important research at a time of continuing austerity and deepening inequality and in a context where men’s experiences of care are often taken for granted or rendered invisible.
A methodologically ambitious programme of qualitative mixed-methods research will be conducted in two phases, to explore the subjective experiences of men’s care in these contexts and to explore different aspects of the research questions. The first phase involves secondary analysis of existing Timescapes databases including ‘Following Young Fathers’ and ‘Intergenerational Exchange’. The second phase, conducted with men living in low-income localities in Leeds, will employ biographical interviews and the photovoice method to extend the time frame of the Timescapes research and to afford additional insights into longitudinal complexities of men’s caring practices and responsibilities in low-income settings.
Proposed Research Questions
1) What are the routine care responsibilities of men in low-income localities and what resources and constraints affect how they ‘do’ family and care on an everyday basis?
2) How do culture, gender, class and personal biographies impact on and give meaning to their experience of caring (giving and receiving) over time and how do these translate within family networks?
3) How might current policy and practice solutions be developed to create the conditions in which the various rewards of caregiving by men can flourish, including in economically deprived families?
The findings will provide a unique evidence base that recognizes the significance of men’s care commitments within these contexts, the factors that underpin them, and their impact on individuals and localities. They will aid in exploring alternative models of citizenship for men providing care to several family members, as well as the ways in which current social policy, that favours social investment (Jupp and Gallagher 2013), elevates an ethic of work (Williams 2004) and has a limited focus on gender equity (Featherstone 2010), might be exacerbating social exclusion and affecting men’s meaning-making about their care responsibilities. Theoretically, they will contribute to interdisciplinary academic debates concerning care, family practices, gendered vulnerability and identities, and will impact through the development of policies and services that value men’s caring activity in contexts of social and demographic change. In particular the data will support the development of a new conceptual framework that will transcend disciplinary boundaries by drawing on interdisciplinary theories of masculinity, care and interdependence to progress an alternative model of care and citizenship for men living in contexts of constraint.
Knowledge exchange activities are a key component of the research study. Building on existing relationships that the project mentor Dr Kahryn Hughes has with third sector and voluntary organisations in Leeds, will facilitate access to project participants but most significantly provide the opportunity to build an evidence base that will support practice and service provision for men in the local area.