Social Constructionism and father-son communication.

Updated: Sep 26

There is consensus that parent-child communication about sex is a critical aspect of promoting sexual health. Evidently, fathers can play an important role in children’s sex education, especially sons’ sex education.

To date, both globally and locally, limited research has been conducted on fathers’ role in children’s sex education. Much of what is known about parent-child sexual communication focuses on mothers rather on fathers and is based on studies conducted in North America and Asian countries. Such knowledge, however, could not be generalized to other social contexts because parent-child sexual communication may be differently shaped by factors such as prevailing gender ideas and culture in the contexts where people live.


Sexuality, fatherhood, sonhood, masculinity, and sexual communication, are phenomena that are integrally intersubjective and constructed in interaction with others by means of shared language. These social constructions provide instructions and restrictions that inform and anchor individuals’ accounts of their personal worlds and the meanings that they attach to them. They also translate into cultural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal scripts that guide people with regard to conducting themselves as sexual and gendered beings in the world. More specifically, scripts provide people with guidelines about what to expect and how to engage, act, and react.

However, social constructions are not fixed entities. They are fluid, and over time they shape and are shaped by various social contexts, structures, and institutions in the realms of culture, education, politics, popular media, family, religion, and interpersonal relationships. Moreover, one individual’s constructions may change over time and/or across different social contexts. There are therefore multiple possible experiences and understandings of phenomena such as sexuality, sexual communication, parenting, and gender that are specific to the historical and cultural context, as well as the dominant social and economic configurations that exist within a particular context.

Firstly, father constructions are usually rooted in hegemonic masculinity constructions in which heterosexuality, independence, and stoicism are foreground. Coloured fathers in South Africa are, therefore, commonly viewed primarily as providers, leaders of the household, and disciplinarians whereas mothers are primarily daily and emotional care providers. Yet, due to the estimated high father absence rate of approximately 40% in "Colored" communities, female-headed households are common in these communities. Women are therefore often the primary parental figures in these homes.


Secondly, male sexuality constructions are embedded in hegemonic masculinity ideas. Upholding heterosexuality and sexual performance/virility and exhibiting a strong sexual appetite are often considered as pinnacle points in hegemonic masculinity ideals worldwide and these ideals also prevail in South African Colored communities. Physical aspects and performance are therefore often emphasized in men’s talk about male sexuality whereas ideas about love, emotional intimacy, and other aspects related to a caring relationship are lacking.


In Colored South African communities, being sexually active and dominant in heterosexual relationships, have been shown to be important components of male sexuality constructions. Father-son sexual communication is a socially constructed phenomenon that is formed by the relationship processes between fathers and sons.

source: Man Talk: Exploring Sexual Communication Between Fathers and Sons in a Minority South African Community.
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