Traditionally, full-time breadwinning was centre stage within dominant notions of paternal masculinities – men’s gendered identities within family life. This material aspect is becoming less self-evident in popular conceptions of what it means to be a good father. The alternative construction of men’s identities when they do not conform to this element of traditional paternal masculinity however remains underexposed. This study thus examines how 12 part-time working Dutch fathers envision their paternal masculinities. It moves beyond previous work on this topic by focusing on a unique group of involved fathers, in a country that in terms of gender norms and policies still centres mothers as primary parents. The tension between this progressive group and traditional setting provides an interesting context for this study. It adds to the field of research on paternal involvement in the Netherlands by centring involved fathers’ own narratives through qualitative interviews. The findings reveal that a majority of respondents constructed a gender-neutral narrative: these ‘new’ fathers rejected gendered notions of parenthood and childcare. This dominant narrative indicates the occurrence of inclusive masculinity within Dutch men’s family lives: an expansion of the range of acceptable heteromasculine behaviour and the fading of boundaries between masculine and feminine behaviours and spheres. The findings underline the importance of taking fathers’ underlying conceptions of paternal masculinities into account when researching and stimulating paternal involvement.

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Renske Keizer, Samira van Bohemen
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

van de Beek, J. (2020, June 21). Beyond the absent breadwinner: mapping the paternal masculinities of Dutch highly involved fathers. Sociology. Retrieved from