Representing British Fathers – David Beckham and…Homer Simpson?

[Image - IFC Films]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Modern fathers and sons are an entirely different breed to their predecessors, but are all of the changes positive?

New research – published to mark the release of Richard Linklater’s critically acclaimed film, Boyhood, on Blu-ray and DVD – defines how the experience of boyhood has changed over a generation, and identifies the interests, habits and sentiments of British boys and their fathers today.

Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood is a story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason, who literally grows up on screen before our eyes; a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up and parenting.

How would you describe your parenting style?

Interestingly, the research showed that over a quarter of British dads recognise their parenting styles and relationships in that of David Beckham and his children.  

This is a key reflection of modern dads’ shifting priorities, with many actively wanting to spend time with their kids, even with a demanding career. After all, if the superstar Beckhams can balance trotting across the globe with being doting parents, why can’t we?

Choosing a major fashion icon also highlights modern British men as a style-conscious breed, with most targeting both being a great father and looking good in the process. As the men’s fashion industry has reached new heights, so has our desire to stay on trend and even push the boundaries through our choices.

Perhaps more worryingly, 12% see themselves reflected in the on-screen antics of Homer and Bart Simpson. We can only hope this is dads admitting that their kids drive them crazy from time to time, because there are some things that will never change!

Allergic to the outdoors

This study also pinpoints the striking differences between boys a generation ago and their modern-day counterparts – though most will not come as a surprise!

Back then, teenage boys tuned in to Match of the Day or Saved by the Bell (25% each), spent their pocket money on Stereophonics and Oasis CDs (20% each), and over 60% spent their afternoons outdoors playing football in the park or climbing trees.

By comparison, today’s lads are a very different bunch. In 2014, boys aged 12-16 are glued to The Simpsons (36.9%) or Family Guy (34.6%), and listen to David Guetta (17.2%) or Calvin Harris (15.4%), while their leisure time is spent playing console or online games (80%).

The final stat is clear proof that today’s generation are increasingly losing touch with getting outdoors and experiencing nature. The pressure is on modern parents to embrace new technology without forgetting the simple things they loved doing as kids – a tricky balance in our society.

As role models from an early age, dads can actively encourage their children to pursue things that don’t involve being screen-gazing zombies, whether that means spending time at the park once a week, exploring the local area or just taking up a sport together.

Modern fathers – who themselves are very much in love with the latest tech – can also ensure important old-fashioned values are passed on to their kids. Mealtimes create a structure for busy families to spend quality time together each day, whilst taking the time to read to your children is a must. Instilling a love of reading – in a world dominated by TV – is one of the best ways to encourage both their imagination and growth!

The nature of fatherhood

21st century dads seek involvement early, earn the right to be heard and respect their partners, creating a positive and secure environment for their sons.

The study revealed that today’s lads enjoy better relationships with their fathers, with a third of dads claiming to be close to their sons, while a generation ago, relationships with their own dads were rated as average at best (45%) or strained (22%).

Clinical Psychologist, Middlesex University Associate Professor and family therapist, Dr Fiona Starr commented: “These research findings confirm what psychologists and therapists are seeing in their clinics. In the west, the nature of fatherhood, boyhood and the relationships between fathers and their sons are more involved, more communicative and more attentive than they ever were. In the UK at least, this could lead to future generations of emotionally intelligent fathers, raising thoughtful and communicative sons who are willing and able to bring home so much more than just the ‘bacon’.”

Although there will always be fresh challenges ahead – particularly with the tech revolution in full swing – modern dads in the UK are certainly doing something right; being better fathers.

Boyhood is out to own on Blu-ray and DVD now.