Title page for ETD etd-01252005-085757

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Marx, Yendra
URN etd-01252005-085757
Document Title Exploring the experiences of first-time fatherhood : a social constructionist study
Degree MA (Research Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Dr G J van Schalkwyk
  • pre-natal
  • post-natal
  • metaphor probe
  • first-time fatherhood
  • discourse and discourse
  • collage making
  • Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique
  • social constructionism
  • triad comparison
  • triangulation
Date 2005-05-31
Availability unrestricted
Historically there has been many changes to the construction of fatherhood. These changes have not been linear and most significant changes took place during the twentieth century. Four ways of being and acting as a father (i.e., Discourses) have been identified: the father as moral overseer; the father as distant breadwinner; the father as sex-role model, and the new nurturant father. Previous studies have indicated that men’s experiences of fatherhood are very diverse and multifaceted. Fathers may experience intense feelings of elation and happiness, as well as depression and anxiety. Results even indicated that some fathers experienced physical symptoms such as morning sickness or hormonal changes, similar to what the mother could experience. There is also a distinction between three phases: pre-natal, the birth, and post-natal.

However, there is a significant gap in the available knowledge related to the subjective experience of fathers, particularly in the South African context. This study is an exploration from within a social constructionist framework, of the experiences of first-time fatherhood. Using a multiple-case study design, the aim was to explore and answer the question: “How do men experience first-time fatherhood?” A qualitative approach to research was applied and three first-time fathers were recruited applying purposive and snowball sampling strategies for interviews that were conducted during May to June 2003. The Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique, which requires the participants to build a collage and participate in a semi-structured interview, was utilized for data collection. Data were analysed by way of thematic analysis, based on transcriptions and translations of the interview material.

Three major themes emerged from the data: responsibility, feelings and thoughts and relationships. Collectively, ten sub-themes were extracted from the interviews.. With regard to responsibility, the three first-time fathers indicated that they associated aspects such as financial, emotional and educational provision as primary concerns of first-time fatherhood. Thoughts and feelings ranged from feelings of happiness and elation, stress and anxiety, to confusion and helplessness, as well as a sense of a loss of freedom. In terms of relationships, family, marriage, and the father-child relationship, emerged as significant in their overall experience of first-time fatherhood. These themes and the sub-themes were identified in both the collage and interview material collected for each father.

The utilisation of the ZMET and a qualitative approach based in a social constructionist perspective proved useful in eliciting the more intimate experiences of first-time fatherhood. The project was, however, limited because only white male subjects were involved, and themes related to masculine stereotypes in the construction of the father’s reality of first-time fatherhood, and the gender of the baby, could not be explored. Further research on the topic is therefore proposed to explore the richness of the topic and to offer context-specific constructions of the multiple realities of first-time fatherhood.

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