‘On the margins of family and home life?’ Working-class fatherhood and masculinity in post-war Scotland

Aimee McCullough

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis examines working-class fatherhood and masculinities in post-war Scotland, the history of which is almost non-existent. Scottish working-class fathers have more commonly been associated with the ‘public sphere’ of work, politics and male leisure pursuits and presented negatively in public and official discourses of the family. Using twenty-five newly conducted oral history interviews with men who became fathers during the period 1970-1990, as well as additional source materials, this thesis explores the ways in which their everyday lives, feelings and experiences were shaped by becoming and being fathers. In examining change and continuities in both the representations and lived experiences of fatherhood during a period of important social, economic, political and demographic change, it contributes new insights to the histories of fatherhood, gender, family, and everyday lives in Scotland, and in Britain more widely. It argues that ideas and norms surrounding fatherhood changed significantly, and were highly contested, during this period. Fathers were both celebrated as ‘newly’ involved in family life, signified by rising attendance at childbirth and increased practical and visible participation in childcare, but also increasingly scrutinised and deemed to be losing their ‘traditional’ breadwinning and authoritarian roles. Although there were significant continuities, a combination of factors caused these shifts, including the changing structure and composition of the labour market, deindustrialisation, the increasing participation of mothers in employment and second-wave feminism. Shifting ideas about gender relations were also accompanied by changing understandings of parent-child relationships and child welfare, in the wake of rising divorce and the growth of one-parent families. In highlighting the complexity and diversity of fatherhood and masculinity amongst working-class men, by placing their relationships, roles, status and identities as fathers at the forefront, and by speaking to men themselves, this thesis adds an important and neglected insight to the Scottish family and provides a fresh perspective on men’s gendered identities. Fathers were central to, rather than on the margins of, family and home life, and fatherhood was, in turn central to men’s identities and everyday lives.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Bartie, Angela, Supervisor
  • Ugolini, Wendy, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • fatherhood
  • masculinities
  • gender
  • oral history
  • twentieth century
  • social history


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