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‘You can Spend Time. . .But not Necessarily be Bonding with Them’: Australian Fathers’ Constructions and Enactments of Infant Bonding


Governments are increasingly implementing policies that encourage early father-infant bonding. However, to date, research has not systematically examined fathers’ perspectives and experiences of early bonding. Using a social constructionist embodiment perspective we argue that paternal bonding is best conceived as a process of repeated, embodied performances that are shaped by gendered parenting discourses. Drawing on 100 semi-structured interviews with a diverse group of Australian fathers of young infants, we argue that most men believe they are capable of developing early strong bonds. They assume that bonding is a product of spending sufficient time with a child, irrespective of the parent's gender. In contrast, a sizable minority of fathers assert that physiology means fathers are ‘largely useless’ to very young infants, and tend to remain distant in the early months. We conclude that social policies promoting early paternal bonding must engage with and challenge gendered/physiological discourses.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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