Navigating the tension between fatherhood ideals and realities of a post-conflict setting: A phenomenological study of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone
Klein, Elizabeth K
McLean, Kristen E
Bah, Abdulai Jawo
Betancourt, Theresa S
MetadataShow full item record
Klein, E.K., Bond, L., McLean, K.E., Feika, M., Bah, A.J. and Betancourt, T.S. (2023) ‘Navigating the tension between fatherhood ideals and realities of a post-conflict setting: A phenomenological study of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone’, SSM - Qualitative Research in Health, 3, p. 100227. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmqr.2023.100227.
The concept of “fatherhood” in many African countries has traditionally been understood in terms of instrumental support to one's family, most notably, financial provision. However, in Sierra Leone and elsewhere, this narrow understanding of fatherhood is changing as a result of shifting demographic trends and in response to crises such as civil war and the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa. Little is understood about how males formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups during childhood (Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups/CAAFAG) are navigating fatherhood as young adults. This study uses a phenomenological approach to understand 1) the meaning and importance of fatherhood for CAAFAG and war-affected fathers, 2) what fatherhood looks like normatively and ideally, with attention to norms about nurturing care and violence, and 3) how ideals of fatherhood may or may not be in tension with socioeconomic circumstances. We find that CAAFAG and war-affected fathers are committed to providing emotional support, encouragement, and a loving upbringing in addition to striving to provide financially for their families. Fathers experienced the greatest tension between their ideals of fatherhood and their structural circumstances; in other words, they felt inhibited in becoming the types of fathers they hoped to be due to the realities of living in a post-conflict, resource-constrained environment.