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History of fatherhood helps ex-offenders

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Dr Laura King, co-founder of the H&P Parenting Forum, is working with staff at the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in Leeds to consider how ideas about parenting can play a part in their work with ex-offenders. Having secured funding from the University of Leeds Higher Education and Innovation Fund, University of Leeds Wellcome Trust ISSF Fund, and the School of History at Leeds, King is collaborating with the Richard Edwards of the CRC to create resources that use her research to inform probation practice.

Their first aim is to produce a short film documenting the experiences of ex-offenders. From December 2014 to March 2015, Dr King and Edwards interviewed ten men on community supervision programmes for a range of offences, from domestic abuse to dangerous driving. The men were asked about their experiences growing up, their relationships with their fathers, and what it had been like to become a dad themselves. They reflected on their identities as fathers, and whether that experience has changed them. With Leeds Media Services, Dr King and Edwards are weaving this material into a film that explores the process of becoming a father and what it means to men and their families.

This project emerged from Dr King’s research into men’s involvement in pregnancy, childbirth and infant care. The work with the probation services is inspired by her research methodology - oral history interviews to encourage men to reflect in particular ways on the process of becoming a dad. The project capitalises on Dr King’s findings that becoming a parent can be incredibly transformative for men, and can encourage a renegotiation of men’s identities.

Like other men she has interviewed, the ex-offenders talked about the importance of ‘being there’ for their children, as emotional support and as a role model. Putting this into practice can be difficult, but identifying their ambitions as fathers can be one way of encouraging a change in behaviour. Likewise, Dr King’s research considers how the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and the arrival of a new baby is a dramatic life event, and loaded with certain expectations. Learning to navigate these expectations is important for successful fatherhood, and it is hoped that the stories told in the film will help other men think through their aims, hopes and expectations as parents.

The film is aimed at professionals in probation services and other services that work with fathers, as well as service users themselves. Dr King and Edwards are also designing accompanying resources to be used with the film. For more information, please email Dr Laura King

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