Father-toddler bonding during the Covid-19 lockdown: Qualitative insights from 17 families in Britain

Paula Sheppard, Mikaela Brough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The UK lockdowns brought about many domestic changes. One was that many families with young children found themselves in the largely unique situation where fathers who normally worked away and saw little of their children during the day were now at home full-time. This was coupled with the fact that grandparents were now unavailable as lockdown rules prohibited visits and travel and many elderly were especially vulnerable. This study aimed to explore how this novel family situation was regarded by parents of young children and how they thought it would affect their children’s social development. Thematic analysis of interviews with 24 mothers and fathers of toddlers revealed that most parents did not think that the lockdown negatively impacted their child’s development, although they worried about it nonetheless. Having fathers at home was overwhelmingly seen as a positive for both the dad’s attachment to the toddler and the toddler’s attachment to their dad. The narrative around grandparents was more divided; there was an almost even split between parents thinking grandparental absence had a negative impact on the grandparent-child relationship and those who thought it made no difference. Another central theme was that the experience of co-parenting during lockdown was overwhelmingly negative, both in terms of the parents’ mutual relationship and in their ability to share childcare. This study provides insight into an unusual domestic situation suggesting that father-child bonds were strengthened by the lockdown, albeit at some cost to the couple relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Article number542
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2022

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