Imagining Fatherhood through the Parenting Experiences of University Students from Poor Economic Backgrounds in South Africa




Academic life, fatherhood, institution of higher learning, masculinity, student-parent


While “fatherhood roles” are generally assumed to be formed along socialised masculine identities, analyses of how such socialised masculine identities are sensitive to economic realities around the people through which the identities are formulated, are hardly presented within the South African literature on gender. This article addresses this research gap by analysing how 10 purposefully selected young university students studying at the University of Venda in South Africa interpret their parental roles amid economic challenges at the university. A qualitative research methodology was followed in the collection and analysis of the data. Drawing on several semi-structured interviews with the students, the article argues that even though traditional cultural norms may form the basis for the initial perception of fatherhood, socioeconomic situations additionally provide an unpleasant but suitable background through which young people formulate a broader definition of masculinity. Economic challenges can be a catalyst for self-reflection and reassessment of family social priorities. As the study found, it provides the basis for young men to question societal expectations of masculinity, become more open and flexible to parental responsibilities that involve emotional support and nurturing to their children, and participate in domestic activities.

Author Biographies

Ekene Amaechi, University of Venda

Dr Amaechi K. Ekene is currently a South African National Research Foundation (NRF)-funded research fellow at the department of Gender studies, University of Venda, South Africa. He has a masters degree in sociology (master of philosophy in religion, society and global issues), and a PhD in Religious Studies. His research interests include Religion and gender, Sociology of religion, Religion and Peace building, Religion and violence, Salafi-Oriented Movement Organisations (particularly, Boko Haram), Theories of Violence, Social movement theory, Non-violent activism and African Indigenous knowledge and Entrepreneurship.

Tshivhase Vhuhwavho, University of Venda

Tshivhase Vhuhwavho is currently registered for a masters degree studis in Gender studies at the University of Venda. She has an honours degree in Youth in development, from the university of Venda. 

Daniel Tsoaledi Thobejane , University of Venda

Thobejane is currently an associate professor within the faculty of Humanities, social
sciences and education at the University of Venda. He is the coordinator of the
Gender studies unit of the Department of Gender and Youth Studies at the same
Faculty. He is currently carrying-out research on gender, patriarchal relations and
education. He holds a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst and a Master of Science degree from the Southern New Hampshire
University (USA).


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How to Cite

Amaechi, Ekene, Tshivhase Vhuhwavho, and Daniel Tsoaledi Thobejane. 2023. “Imagining Fatherhood through the Parenting Experiences of University Students from Poor Economic Backgrounds in South Africa”. Gender Questions 11 (2):21 pages .



Received 2022-12-11
Accepted 2023-08-28
Published 2023-12-01