25-27th June 2015

The Nurturing Father


Mutual Images is glad to invite you to participate in a conference seeking to explore the images of the ‘nurturing father’. We welcome papers that consider social, mental and visual images of fathers and fatherhood across time and space. We especially encourage presentations that will adopt a cross-cultural perspective, focusing on how images are constructed in an international context. The general intention of this conference is directed towards focusing on the so far neglected heterogeneous dimensions of fatherhood placing special importance on images of the nurturing father.

The following different strands will comprise the below mentioned topics of interest which may include but are not limited to:

  • fatherhood: concept and symbol
  • evolution and circulation of ideas on fatherhood
  • cross-cultural images of fatherhood
  • perception of foreign images of fatherhood
  • representation of fatherhood/fathers in arts and media
  • models of fatherhood
  • roles of fathers
  • relationships between fathers and other members of society -consideration of fathers within the system of education and care


Cécile CODETSainte-Marie, Lyon (France)

In search of a definition of fatherhood in Renaissance and Medieval Spain

A certain number of texts were written in order to teach women how they could be good wives and mothers in Spain at the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the Renaissance. However the texts written for men did not include any advice about fatherhood. At that time, being a father belonged to the private sphere, whereas men where before all educated in order to play a role in the public sphere, especially in treatises about politics, chivalry or good manners. Nevertheless, treatises about the family, most of which were dedicated primarily to women, can tell us something about fatherhood. Indeed, in the family, the wife and children were placed under the responsibility of their husband and father. As a consequence, when moralists addressed to women, they were obliged to mention the one without whom nothing could be done, that is to say their husband, and to define his role. At the same time, as motherhood was considered to be essential for women, the authors could not prevent from defining fatherhood, thinking the role of a man not only inside of a couple, but also inside of the family. In this paper, thus, we mean to explore how Castilian and Catalan writers defined the father’s role in the family in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. At that time, fatherhood implied a series of responsibilities, among which the one of supporting one’s family, but also, and above all, authority. Thus, treatises written during these centuries could give us an original conception of the « nurturing father ».

Cooke DAWSONCurtin University (Australia)

An Exploration of Men’s Strengths in the Transition to Fatherhood

Men’s perceived strengths during the transition to fatherhood were explored from interviews with 10 first-time fathers of 2–12 month-old children. Adopting the principles of positive psychology, this qualitative research identified aspects of men’s positive experience in fatherhood. Seven key fatherhood strengths themes were identified: shared parental responsibility, complementarity, adaptability, philosophical outlook, self-development, generative care, and bonding with the child. These strengths were mediated by five contextual factors: couple relationship, work conditions, social influences, health of family members and age/maturity. Comparisons are made with other strengths models. These findings give insight into the positive experience of fatherhood and can be used as a resource by practitioners working with fathers from both a family strengths and solution–focused perspective.

Miriam DAMROWDusseldorf University (Germany)

The nurturing father as a neglected phenomenon 

Fatherhood as a social phenomenon has caused growing interest for several decades. For western countries parenthood is constructed as mostly dominated by mothers while fathers play a major role in gaining livelihood for their families. This traditional socio-economic view on parenthood and particularly on fathers has been challenged for several years now. According to Beck (1986, 2007) the changing German society might provide many challenges for males. While the orientation on a male bread-winning role model is still true for many men and boys a growing number of men and/or boys seem to become aware of possible heterogeneous dimensions – being male and being a (possible) father might mean more than just being the economic resource for the family. The nurture dimension in fatherhood is attractive for men as can be seen in a global perspective: several countries consider fathers as an emotional family resource, e.g. becoming obvious in Japan’s socio-political attempt, as Montoya (2014) pointed out. However, nurturing fathers do not play a major role in science yet: most publications deal with the challenges fathers are confronted with –   for instance establishing a family (i.e. the transition from being a couple into being a family with children) maintaining the couple relationship while balancing the family relationship (from a psychological point of view). On a macro-societal level the way fathers are considered in society, the way resources for fathers are provided and so on seem to reflect a rather limited perspective. This, however, seems to identify nurturing fathers as a neglected phenomenon. What if it is a hidden agenda?

Aurore YAMAGATA-MONTOYA – University of the West of England (UK)

Ikumen: How the nurturing father can save Japan

The ideal relationship between the child and other family members has been evolving through time. In modern Japan, child-caring has been associated with motherhood at the same time as mothers were relegated to the domestic space and endorsed the role of full-time housewives (shufu). Men’s only role as fathers was that of (financial) provider and became an absent figure.

The low fertility rate of the late 20th century has contributed to encourage new perceptions of child-rearing involving both parents. Men’s involvement in child-rearing can be separated into two main trends. On one hand, men who increasingly spend time with their children, although they tend to focus on leisure and socialization tasks. On the other hand, since the 1990s a new generation of ‘Ikumen‘ or nurturing fathers who fought gender roles, assumed the everyday tasks of feeding, bathing and nursing children, and ask for parental leave.

In this paper I will point at the new relationship between father and child as defined by the government and represented in the promotion advertisements produced during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The visual and contextual analysis of the most widely spread posters enable to point at the main characteristics of the model of fatherhood offered. What kind of relationship is displayed? Which children in terms of age and gender are represented? How to depict child-rearing in a ‘manly’ manner? The government aims through those posters to redefine child-rearing in terms of gender, although I will show the ambiguity of redefining gender roles while keeping a traditional discourse.