‘I’d just lose it if there was any more stress in my life’: Separated Fathers, Fathers’ Rights and the News Media

  • Sociology School of Social Sciences University of Auckland New Zealand


Custody abductions and filicides-suicides are not every day occurrences and typically become ‘media events’. Through an analysis of newspaper representations of two custody abductions and one filicide-suicide, this article examines the role played by fathers’ rights discourse in the construction of the separated father in each case. It argues that fathers’ rights discourse played a central role in the sympathetic portrayal of the two fathers involved in the custody abductions, but was less obviously present in the case of the filicide-suicide. These divergent representations indicate that news media representations are contingent on circumstances and also point to the limits of fathers’ rights discourses in legitimating and neutralising the actions of fathers in pain over the loss of intimate personal relationships. However, the use of a forensic approach to reporting meant that each case remained decontextualised from the pattern of violence and coercive control that typically characterises conflictual separations and custody disputes.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2016-06-01
Pages:107 to 120
Fetching Scopus statistics
Fetching Web of Science statistics

Author Biography

Sociology School of Social Sciences University of Auckland New Zealand

Vivienne Elizabeth is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Auckland.  Her research is located at the intersection of sociology of families and gender. Her research focuses on the way gender and power operate in the construction and negotiation of identities in a range of social sites (eg., post-separation families) and through a number of different social practices (eg., money management in couple relationships).  Vivienne has published on violence against women, disputes over post-separation care and contact arrangements, the money management practices of cohabitees, and the transition from cohabitation to marriage for both different and same sex couples.