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The father, a wheel of the family coach to remember! State of Québec and Canadian paternity research

Diane Dubeau, Marie-Ève Clément, Claire Chamberland

Research into matters of paternity requires that the researcher opt for a special sort of spyglass, one that enlarges one’s viewing radius when scrutinizing the object of one’s study. It is a form of research that demands a creative reframing, stimulating new theories, methodologies and practices. Co-opting fathers as subjects of research means going beyond the analysis of the dyadic parental interaction, going beyond the family system, and taking into consideration social, cultural and political environments, while not neglecting the wealth of knowledge already garnered thanks to the long tradition of research focused on mothers. The image of the cartwheel is used here to illustrate the huge challenge awaiting researchers as they attempt to understand a reality whose complexity is masked by its apparent simplicity. And this task must be undertaken, using a positive, reframed approach that will allow us to answer the question: How can this wheel promote or hinder the development or well-being of the members of the family? The present paper attempts to provide some answers to that question, based on a synthesis of the status of Quebec and Canadian research on fatherhood with an environmental approach. This allows us to take into consideration the characteristics of the systemic macro-environment that impact paternal commitments, while at the same time identifying prospective niches that allow researchers and other stakeholders to enhance their knowledge in this field.