Male role models in the media

‘Beyond Male Role Models’, the ESRC-funded research project that I’m currently leading, has attracted some media interest since our official launch in London a couple of weeks ago. We were mentioned in this Guardian article about a mentoring scheme run by Action for Children, our research partners. Last week I was interviewed by Robert Perrone on BBC Three Counties Radio. And then this accolade: an article in the MK (Milton Keynes) News that featured a photo of yours truly alongside David Beckham. I should make clear (in case there is any misunderstanding): Beckham is not my male role model!

Martin and Beckham

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Faith and fatherhood on video

In June I took part in a seminar on ‘Fathers and fatherhood: policy, representation and experience’, organised by The Open University’s Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG). I was pleased to be asked to present the findings from my research, alongside key researchers in the field such as Margaret O’Brien, Jacqui Gabb and Gail Lewis.

My great grandfather, Charles Edward Robb

My great grandfather, Charles Edward Robb

My grandfather, Arthur Ernest Robb

My grandfather, Arthur Ernest Robb

My presentation was entitled “‘With prayer from your loving father': faith and fatherhood in one man’s letters to his son during the First World War” and drew on work in progress on my great grandfather’s letters to my grandfather in early 1916, when the latter was serving in the Royal Fusiliers and awaiting embarkation for France.

You can watch complete videos of all the presentations from the seminar here. My talk can be found on the second screen down. For Powerpoint slides from the presentation, follow this link and go to the foot of the page.

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An excuse for (apparent) inactivity

If things have seemed a little quiet around here lately, it’s because I’m active elsewhere – contributing to the blog for our new ESRC-funded research project, ‘Beyond Male Role Models: gender identities and practices in work with young men’. Do pop over and take a look – and follow us on Twitter.

There might be other research and teaching-related stuff I want to blog about here – but most of my time will be taken up with the project for the next little while.

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Research assistant wanted

In my last post I mentioned our success in attracting ESRC funding for a new research project on gender and young men, to be carried out in partnership with Action for Children. We’re hoping to get started on the project in May, and we’re currently looking for a part-time Research Assistant to join the team.

If you have experience of social research and of working with young people, and a good understanding of gender issues, we’d be pleased to hear from you. The closing date is 16th May and you can find further details here.

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Funding success!

Just before Christmas, Brigid Featherstone, Sandy Ruxton and I received the long-awaited news that our funding bid to the Economic and Social Research Council had been successful. This means that we can finally begin work on our research project, tentatively entitled ‘Do Boys Need Male Role Models? Gender Identities and Practices in Work with Young Men’.

The two-year study, which we’ll be undertaking in partnership with Action for Children, a national voluntary organisation, aims to examine whether the gender identity of workers makes a difference in developing effective relationships with vulnerable young men, and to explore how gender interacts with other aspects of identity, such as class and ethnicity, in those day-to-day relationships. We’re hoping that our findings will contribute to academic debates about the development of young masculinities and young men’s transitions to adulthood, and also have an impact on policy and practice in relation to boys perceived to be ‘at risk’.

The idea for the study arose from a seminar that Sandy and I organised a couple of years ago, and builds on work that all three of us have been doing on various aspects of the relationship between masculinity, care and welfare services.

I’ll be posting updates about the study here and on Twitter, and we’d love to hear from anyone with an interest in our work, or working in similar areas. You can leave a comment here, send me a tweet, or email me at:

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Thinking aloud about mums and dads

This week’s Thinking Allowed on Radio 4, presented by Laurie Taylor, focused in part on the subject of men and childbirth. I was asked to write a short piece about my research for the linked Open University website. I was quite pleased that, in under 800 words, I managed to mention the riots, absent fathers, my past research studies on fathering and on maternal relationships, and my current interest in the ‘male role models’ debate. And I managed to plug two of the OU modules to which I’ve contributed…

You can find my article here.

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‘Mummy’s boys': my interview on BBC Radio Lancashire

Yesterday I was interviewed on the Ted Robbins show on BBC Radio Lancashire, about my research on boys’ relationships with their mothers. At the time of writing, you can still listen to the programme at the station’s website.

The programme’s focus on the issue was prompted by new research, reported in the press this week, which purports to show that boys who have a close relationship with their mothers make better husbands.

In my contribution, I tried to make clear my own dislike of the pejorative term ‘mummy’s boys’ and to widen the discussion beyond the familiar stereotype of the suffocating mother and emotionally dependent son. The newly-published research provided a helpful pretext for talking about my own interest in the possible connection between maternal relationships and attitudes to parenting.

I hope I managed to get across some useful points about the often-overlooked importance of mothers for boys’ emotional development, and to provide a balance to some of the emphasis on fathers’ role in boys’ lives and pathologising of the contribution of mothers, especially lone mothers.

I even succeeded in squeezing in a passing reference to the recent outbreak of social order in London and elsewhere, and to challenge the emerging consensus that it’s all down to absent fathers, single mothers, and a lack of strong male role models.

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