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Father and Teenagers: Desire for Children Affects Relationship

The relationships of fathers to their teenaged children are apparently influenced by the nature of their previous desire for children. The more acute that this feeling is, the more closely fathers engage with their children at an everyday level. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Center for Gender Studies at the University of Basel. This is the first time that a study has examined the perspectives of both fathers and teenagers regarding their relationship.

For her investigation, the sociologist and gender researcher Dr. Diana Baumgarten conducted a detailed evaluation of long interviews with eight fathers between the ages of 46 and 58, as well as with eight children between 16 and 21 years of age.

The respondents live in a common household in German-speaking Switzerland. The questions to the men concentrated on approaches to fatherhood, everyday arrangements, and relationships with teenagers. The teenagers had to report on the details of their daily lives and their relationships with their fathers.

“Equivalent,” “Supplementary,” and “Satellite” Fathers
One result of the study is that the fathers’ earlier desire for children played a significant role in their relationships with their children. The more aware the father was of his desire for children, the clearer perception the father has today of his relationship to the child.

Such “equivalent” fathers assume more restrictions and burdens upon themselves, such as a career trajectory that develops more slowly. They are also more likely to see the teenager as an individual counterpart than those that the author describes as “supplementary” and “satellite” fathers.

Activities and Exchange of Views
In the relationship between fathers and their teenaged children, the author encountered the “activity norm.” Especially fathers who are less present for their children on an everyday level have the entitlement to do as much as possible with their children. While mothers tend to live their relationships with their children on an everyday level, fathers operate under the norm that they must always develop their relationship through special and extraordinary activities.

Another notable result is the great value accorded to communication and exchanges of views. Prior studies have made this point for mother-child relationships, and have disregarded the communicative value of fathers. The author also found through interviews with fathers and teenagers that motherhood is depicted as the model of parental care and is often measured against fatherhood. However, distinct conceptions of fatherhood are also expressed in the study – and thus also conceptions of masculinity.

Original Monograph
Diana Baumgarten, Väter von Teenagern. Sichtweisen von Vätern und ihren jugendlichen Kindern auf ihre Beziehung. Budrich Unipress, Opladen 2013. 217 Seiten. Kart. 24.90 € (D), 35.90 CHF.

More Informations
Dr. Diana Baumgarten, Universität Basel, Zentrum Gender Studies der Universität Basel, Tel. + 41 (0)43 536 73 76, E-Mail:

Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
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