Discussion of the legal status, responsibilities, and rights of men who are fathers - whether they are married or unmarried, cohabiting or separated, biological or 'social' in nature - has a long history. In recent years, however, western societies have witnessed a heightening of concern about whether families need fathers and, if so, what kinds of fathers these should be. A debate about the future of fatherhood has become central to a range of conversations about the changing family, parenting, and society. Law has served an important role in these discussions, serving as a focal point for broader political frustrations, playing a central role in mediating disputes, and operating as a significant symbolic 'authorized discourse' which provides an official, state-sanctioned account of the scope of paternal rights and responsibilities. Fragmenting Fatherhood provides the first sustained engagement with the way that fatherhood has been understood, constructed, and regulated within English law. Drawing on a range of disparate legal provisions, and material from diverse disciplines, the book sketches the major contours of the figure of the father as drawn in law and social policy, tracing shifts in legal and broader understandings of what it means to be a 'father' and what rights and obligations should accrue to that status. In thematically-linked chapters cutting across substantive areas of law, the book locates fatherhood as a key site of contestation within broader political debates regarding the family and gender equality. Fragmenting Fatherhood provides an important and unique resource and speaks to debates about fatherhood across many fields including law and legal theory, sociology, gender studies, social policy, marriage and family, and women's studies.
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Richard Collier is Professor of Law at the University of Newcastle. Sally Sheldon is a Professor of Law at the University of Kent.Review:
...a remarkable read: heavy on ideas, light on jargon, and covering the entire range of the daddy debate. Jennie Bristow Times Online - Alpha Mummy 11th March 2009 ...their approach is interdisciplinary, drawing from sociology, politics, psychology, history and social policy in an impressive and erudite engagement with a subject of great interest and controversy...a range of ideas has emerged about the importance of social responsibility on the part of parents. The law sets out normative expectations about how they should be discharged. These ideas are also evident across social policy, and it is a strength of the authors' interdisciplinary emphasis that they capture this with their analysis of new Labour's policies across a range of domains (for example, they note the focus in services such as Sure Start on "engaging fathers")...The authors have combined their considerable intellectual expertise to produce a comprehensive book that will be of great value to scholars in a range of disciplines. They deal thoughtfully with a subject that arouses anxiety and controversy and where the research evidence is hotly contested. Brid Featherstone Times Higher Education 5th March 2009 The style is academic, but worded for the concerned reader. The book is recommended reading for trustees of societies and charities concerned with the effects of family breakdown and parent-child relationships. Reg George McKenzie Magazine Issue 82, December 2008 ...superb analysis of the changing conventions surrounding fatherhood...in using material from across academic disciplines and with reference to important contemporary debates that are playing out through policy developments and media discussions, the book should gain much wider appeal. Jennie Bristow Spiked Review of Books Issue No 21, February 2009 Richard Collier and Sally Sheldon... are to be congratulated. ... the main chapters contain many useful, thought-provoking ideas to illuminate the authors' central thesis of the rapidly evolving social institutions of modern fatherhood and its implications for family law. Mervyn Murch Cardiff Law School, Cardiff University Journal of Law and Society Volume 36 No. 3 (2009)
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