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'Relating to risk: fathers, intimacy and parenting practice' (Jacqui Gabb and Esther Dermott)

ABSTRACT Relating to risk: fathers, intimacy and parenting practice Jacqui Gabb and Esther Dermott...

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Martin Robb
22 July 2010


Relating to risk: fathers, intimacy and parenting practice

Jacqui Gabb and Esther Dermott

Studies in the field of child welfare have generated significant knowledge on ‘at risk’ families, with inappropriate–unlawful behaviour being codified through assessment tools that 'measure' signs and instances of misconduct, but we actually know very little about how risk, more broadly defined, impacts on everyday family practices. In particular, the ways that intimate fatherhood is shaped by perceptions of risk.


It is imperative to develop a better understanding of how fathers and children ordinarily manage love, intimacy and ‘risky practices’ so that robust judgements can be made in the policy and professional practices arenas, but this is not the only reason why we should focus the analytical lens on fathers and risk. We maintain that this is a useful area to explore because studying fatherhood can tell us something more about conceptualisations and experiences of risk, and studying risk can tell us more about the meanings and practices of fatherhood. For example, fatherhood is a good example through which issues of border crossing and the negotiation of policy in everyday lives and family relationships can be examined. Understandings of intimacy are advanced when the focus is on risk because we can unpick the contested areas that comprise ordinary parent–child interactions and how these intergenerational practices are managed. It allows us to explore what happens when perceived risk is embodied but when there is no actual threat posed. Our focus therefore is on how ideas of fatherhood and risk play out in everyday practices of intimacy, around three key areas: competency and risk; sexuality and risk; regulation and risk.


We are currently developing a proposal to be submitted to the ERSC in December 2010. The intention of this seminar presentation, therefore, is to outline the scope of the planned project and our interests in this area, and to get feedback and suggestions on how we might develop the project and/or tie into to others’ work (at the OU and elsewhere).

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