The impact on men of the transition to fatherhood: A phenomenological investigation
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact on men of the transition to fatherhood. A qualitative, exploratory approach was used to gather data. Based on a phenomenological perspective, this study focused on first-time fathers’ subjective experience of the pre- to postpartum transition to fatherhood in terms of how they perceive themselves as being affected by this experience. The sample consisted of 30 white, predominately middle-class fathers who were enrolled in prepared childbirth classes. Two in-depth interviews were conducted with each subject. The first interview took place during the last trimester of pregnancy, and the second interview took place 12 to 16 weeks postpartum. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed, and data were analyzed by looking for emerging theme and commonalities. Five major conclusions were derived from the data. First, men perceived themselves as taking on more responsibility and maturing in the process of becoming fathers. The second conclusion was that transition to fatherhood impacted how men perceived their work and careers. This impact was twofold in that first-time fathers not only took their work more seriously but were also looking for ways to balance work and family demands. The third conclusion was that men developed an image of themselves as fathers during the transition to fatherhood. This process began during pregnancy, or earlier for some men, as they considered the kind of father they wanted to be with their children. A fourth conclusion was that men were impacted with their relationship with their infants in that they experienced a bond with their children that strengthened over time. A fifth conclusion was that transition to fatherhood impacted men by giving them more of a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life. As such, the process of becoming a father represented a significantly meaningful experience. Overall, it was concluded that the men in this study underwent a transformation of identity during the transition to fatherhood. In the process of nurturing, protecting, and providing for their children men came to perceive themselves as fathers and came to redefine their world in terms of fatherhood.