Changing conceptualisations of fatherhood : the perceived impact of generative fathering on heterosexual and gay fatherhood in South Africa
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In his model of psychosocial development, Erik H Erikson referred to the concept of generativity as a value that forms part of the adulthood phase of individuals. The concept has been defined as "... the desire to establish and nurture young people". Applied to parenting and in particular fathering, it refers to "... fathering that meets the needs of children by working to create and maintain a developing ethical relationship with them" (Dollahite et al., 1997a: 18). Such a relationship is important insofar as it necessitates the creation and maintenance of three psychosocial strengths, namely hope, fidelity and care - all of which are important for an individual to be healthy and functional (Erikson, 1984; 1997). The dissertation that follows primarily focused on the changing nature of fathering, with particular emphasis on a comparison between heterosexual and gay fathering in South Africa. This comparison served to indicate the manner in which these men conceptualised fathering, and the degree to which they displayed the principles of generative fathering to determine their possible differences and similarities. Evident from some of the key findings were the following. Firstly, in terms of the manner in which the men defined fathering, both groupings used similar concepts to define the position of a father. Secondly, based on the thorough discussion of the basic principles of generative fathering in Chapter Two, it was quite evident that both heterosexual and gay fathers knowingly and unknowingly ascribed to them. These included the components of generative fathering, being interaction, accessibility and paternal responsibility and the various categories of generative fathering, including ethical work, stewardship, development work and relationship work. Based on these similarities, it was of particular interest to the researcher that it was not the sexual orientation of the respondents which impacted on their relationship with their children, but rather independent factors such as the manner in which they were socialised by their fathers, their educational and occupational levels, as well as spousal support. As such, the research underscored the importance of eradicating traditional notions of the father serving only as moral figure, economic provider and gender role model. In addition, it also emphasised the fact that 'gay fathering' should not be regarded as a contradiction in terms, but that 'gay fathering' and the seemingly stereotypical 'gay lifestyle', should be viewed as two distinct and independent entities.
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