Fathers in the UK: what do we know? what do we need to know?

This study takes stock of the current research and data on fathers in the UK with a view to providing a balanced assessment of what is known, as well as to highlight major gaps and opportunities for secondary analysis using major public data sets.  It complements a recent secondary analysis on Modern Fatherhood led by the ESRC and updates and extends an earlier review of research on Fathers and Fatherhood published in 1997.

Over recent decades, the nature and expectations of fatherhood have changed considerably.  While retaining a focus on breadwinning, public narratives emphasise the involved father as the ideal.  But at the same time significant demographic change, including the increased prevalence of parental separation and divorce, mean that parenting relationships need to be negotiated across household boundaries.  The project has evaluated the current evidence base on fathers, and provides an updated overview of what is known, identifies some of the major gaps and makes recommendations about data improvement.

A series of reports, Contemporary Fathers in the UK, are being published by the Fatherhood Institute and will be available via http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/2017/contemporary-fathers-in-the-uk/

In undertaking this project The Fatherhood Institute has also created a comprehensive literature library of mainly academic articles, book chapters and reports about fathers and fatherhood in the UK from 1998 to 2017.

Project details



Adrienne Burgess, Fatherhood Institute

Rebecca Goldman, Independent Researcher

Dr. Jeremy Davies, Fatherhood Institute

Advisors include Professor Wendy Sigle-Rushton, Gender Institute, LSE

Grant Amount and Dates


January 2014 - December 2017

Project website




Executive Summaries:

Who's the bloke in the room? Fathers during pregancy and at the birth in the UK, by Goldman R, Burgess A (2018) 

Where's the daddy? Fathers and father-figures in UK datasets, by Goldman R, Burgess A (2018)

Contemporary fathers in the UK: our research on British dads by A. Burgess et al. December 2017

Do research datasets take into account family diversity? By Rebecca Goldman, p.8 of SRA Research Matters, March 2017