‘Mad, sad and bad’ to ‘Dad’: care-experienced men’s experiences of fatherhood

Emma Dandy, Jacqueline Knibbs, Felicity Gilbey

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The transition to fatherhood can have a significant impact upon men’s emotional health and well-being. As experiences of abuse and neglect in childhood also correlate with increased rates of depression, self-harm and suicide in adulthood, it is likely that the mental health of fathers who spent time in care as children due to maltreatment will be more severely affected by the move to fatherhood. Although research into the experiences of fathers has multiplied in recent years, there remain lacunae and the experiences of many, for example single parents and those who are disabled or have care experience, remain unexplored. This article fills this gap for one such group by exploring the lived experiences of five fathers with care experience whose children remain in their care. They were interviewed about their situation and feelings and the emerging data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Three superordinate themes emerged: ‘Going back to move forward’, ‘Reliving the past’ and ‘Breaking the cycle’, and these encapsulated eight more subordinate themes. Participants described fatherhood as a chance to relive their childhood and feel accepted as part of a family, which enhanced their sense of self from ‘Mad, sad and bad’ to ‘Dad’. The implications for policy and practice for supporting care-experienced fathers are discussed along with directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-300
Number of pages16
JournalAdoption and Fostering
Issue number3
Early online date16 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Care-experienced
  • fathers
  • lived experience
  • parenthood
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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