Chinese Immigrant Fathers’ Participation in Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: An Exploration of Roles, Experiences, and Attitudes
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Family and community play an indispensable role in children’s learning and development. Parental/paternal participation is considered vital and a precondition to establishing teacher-parent/father partnerships. This research explored Chinese immigrant fathers’ roles, participation, and attitudes towards their children’s early learning experiences. Semi-structured online interviews were used to gather qualitative data based on a constructivist research paradigm. The theoretical framework comprised cultural capital, fatherhood evolution theory, parenting style categorisation, and parental involvement models. Te Whāriki, the Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) curriculum, also functioned as an analytical lens when seeking answers to the research questions. Six participants were recruited using snowball sampling. Participants had to meet the inclusion criteria of being Chinese immigrant fathers, including biological fathers and step-fathers, and having a child or children in ECE settings in Aotearoa New Zealand. Content analysis and an inductive coding approach revealed themes including complexity, dilemmas and perspectives. This research suggests that different parenting styles can reflect the degree of fathers’ involvement in their children’s ECE. In addition, fathers’ roles are complex, influenced by many contextual factors such as their work and life contexts. This research shows a clear gap between the current forms of engagement provided by ECE services and desired forms of participation sought by fathers, and most fathers viewed their participation in terms of benefits for their children. Meanwhile, there are significant overlaps between fathers’ and ECE teachers’ expectations and aspirations towards early childhood teaching and learning. Research findings have implications for developing robust strategies to encourage participation from this specific cultural and social group.