'Who's the guy in the room?’ : Involving fathers in antenatal care screening for sickle cell disorders

Article English OPEN
Atkin, Karl Michael ; BERGHS, Maria ; Dyson, Simon (2015)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.01.039
  • Subject: fathers | genetic screening | UK | sickle cell | sociology | ante-natal screening | masculinity

Open Access Embargo Period: 36 months: ends 1st March 2018 Fathers are increasingly invited to take part in antenatal care of which screening for sickle cell trait is a part. Expectations about involvement reflect changing perceptions of fatherhood and negotiation of gendered identities. Current policy supports male involvement, but is less clear on what basis and with what consequences. In exploring this, our qualitative study, using semi-structured interviews, presents the experiences of fathers who have recently undergone antenatal screening for sickle cell. The sample was generated in discussion with eight non-governmental organisations. We recruited 24 fathers from nine UK cities. Our analysis outlines the importance of ‘presence’, in which fathers rely on nurturing definitions of fatherhood to display their sense of responsibility. Fathers, however, struggled to find a meaningful role as traditional masculinities became juxtaposed with new and complex forms of gender organisation, creating the potential for estrangement. To conclude, screening policy makes an appeal to emergent masculinities. It also generates risks and compromises choice, due to the normative values implicit in the screening process, reinforced by the more controlling aspects of health surveillance. This creates confusion among fathers, who are not sure why they have been invited into the antenatal space.
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