Contemporary Fathers in the UK: our review of research on British dads

4 May 2021

The Fatherhood Institute is conducting the most comprehensive review ever undertaken in Britain, of decades of research into the roles of fathers in families. Contemporary Fathers in the UK, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, features a series of rigorously researched but accessibly written themed reports – which you will find below, all available for free download. 

Each of the reports explores a separate topic area we judge to be of interest to researchers, policy makers and practitioners, as well as to the general public, and in respect of which we have been able to identify a significant amount of UK research.

Lockdown Fathers – the untold story (2021): Fatherhood during the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK

During the Spring 2020 lockdown in the UK, fathers of young children almost doubled the amount of time they spent on childcare. Three out of four were at home full-time, working or not working, and taking part in all aspects of family life: home schooling, everyday childcare, routine housework.

Lockdown Fathers – a study grounded in a representative sample of 2045 fathers of children aged under 12, supplemented by analysis of others’ recent studies – charted the changes.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation and undertaken by the Fatherhood Institute together with polling organisation BritainThinks, Lockdown Fathers explored the lockdown experiences of fathers in two parent households; separated fathers; Asian and Black fathers; gay fathers; and fathers in different socio-economic groups. Changes in fathers’ and partner’s working and caretaking patterns were recorded, as well as perceived impacts on mental and physical wellbeing and couple relationships.

There was strong focus on changes in father-child time together and father-child relationship quality, including closeness and understanding; perceived impacts on fathers’ parenting skills, including their capacity to manage anger and irritation; and their ability to support their children’s schoolwork going forward. Fathers’ joy in parenting, their self-confidence as parents and their aspirations for the future were also studied. Implications for government and employers, schools and nurseries, child and family wellbeing and gender equality are discussed.

Lockdown Fathers Executive Summary

Lockdown Fathers Condensed Report

Lockdown Fathers Full Report

Who’s the Bloke in the Room? (2018): Fathers during pregnancy and at the birth in the UK

In the UK there have been more studies of fathers across the transition to parenthood than at any other life stage. Who’s the Bloke in the Room? focuses particularly on the antenatal period, although we include short sections on the birth and the neonatal period. Integrated throughout this Report are findings from Phase 2 of our datasets review, during which we examined three ‘birth cohort studies’ – the Avon Longitudinal Study of Children and Parents (Alspac), the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS], and Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) – to see what questions they asked about the fathers of cohort members in pregnancy and around the time of birth. The report also includes results from How was it for you?, an online survey of dads’ experiences, which we conducted with Fathers Network Scotland during May 2018.

Who’s the Bloke Executive Summary

Who’s the Bloke in the Room? Full Report

Who’s The Bloke Press Release Final

How was it for you? UK results

Where’s the Daddy? (2018): Fathers in UK research

Complementing our topic-based analysis, we have been investigating how information about British fathers (‘raw data’) is collected and researched. We undertook this work in two phases. In Phase One, we investigated sixteen large-scale repeated cross-sectional and longitudinal UK research datasets to discover how they collect information on British fathers; and how they identify and differentiate different types of fathers and father-figures. In Phase Two, we selected three datasets from among the sixteen, and looked at which substantive data items had been collected on three specific topics.

Where’s the daddy? Fathers and father-figures in UK datasets presents the findings from Phase One of our datasets review.

Where’s the daddy Executive Summary

Where’s the daddy Condensed Report

Where’s the daddy Full Report

Cash or Carry (2017): Fathers combining work and care in the UK

Cash or Carry is the first report from the Contemporary Fathers in the UK series, which explores key sections of our new library of literature on UK fathers and fatherhood. The report looks at paid work and unpaid care-giving.

In post-industrial economies, reconciling provisioning and daily care of one’s family is an important task for both men and women. The bulk of our report examines how contemporary British fathers manage such reconciliation, and the contexts (cultural, legislative, institutional, social and familial) framing their behaviour.

Almost all the findings we present here are drawn from studies of two-parent families. When there is research evidence on fathers who parent their children alone or for part of the time we report on it – but such research is rare. It is also rare for two-parent-family research to distinguish between birth fathers and ‘social’ fathers (stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends, adoptive fathers, foster fathers, and so on).

Cash or Carry Executive Summary PDF

Cash or Carry Recommendations PDF

Cash or Carry Press Release FINAL PDF

Cash or Carry Full Report PDF

Our research library

The library of UK fatherhood research we have created and are updating as we go along is also available to be accessed by academic researchers and others: for more details on this please email Dr Jeremy Davies at j.davies (at)

You can find out more about our methodology for the review here: Methodology PDF.

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