Educational Research and Reviews

  • Abbreviation: Educ. Res. Rev.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1990-3839
  • DOI: 10.5897/ERR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 1952

Full Length Research Paper

Fathers looking after children in Türkiye in public settings

Tutkun Cansu
  • Tutkun Cansu
  • Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Education, Bayburt University, Bayburt, Türkiye.
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 27 June 2022
  •  Accepted: 28 July 2022
  •  Published: 31 August 2022

 ABSTRACT

This study was conducted to determine the situation in Türkiye in terms of fathers looking after their children in public settings. For this purpose, natural observations of parents who came to playgrounds, movie theaters, stores, toy stores, and restaurants with their children aged 3–5 years were made in the study. Observational data were collected from 522 children and parents who came to the shopping mall with their children in Ankara, the capital of Türkiye. The study found that mothers looked after their children in public settings more than fathers did. However, fathers spending time with the child varied depending on whether it was the weekend or a weekday. Fathers look after their children more on weekends than on weekdays. In the study, it was determined that the gender of children was influential in parents looking after them and that fathers mainly looked after boys and mothers mainly looked after girls, but the children's age had no effect. These results are significant in that they show that fathers in Türkiye maintain their traditional understanding of looking after their children less while looking after their sons more than mothers; however, they are experiencing a shift toward the new paternal role during weekends.

 

Key words: Preschool, father-child, naturalistic observation, fathers, Türkiye.


 INTRODUCTION

Parents are in the best position to have a positive effect on their children’s early learning and school achievements (Aaskoven et al., 2022; Donkor, 2018; Petersson et al., 2022). According to this point of view, families have a primary effect on children and lay the foundation for how they will grow and develop (Bronfenbrenner, 1986), as well as playing a key role in promoting children’s development (Rous et al., 2003). Yet, in a traditional sense, a large part of raising children continues to be done by mothers, and they spend more time with their children and look after them more than fathers (Amato and Rivera, 1999; Lawson and Mace, 2009; Wilson and Prior, 2011). Related studies often focus on the participation of mothers. Participation of fathers is rarely mentioned in this process, and they are often ignored (Downer et al., 2008; Ramisetty et al., 2019). Ignoring a person who takes on the role of a father means ignoring the potential parental effects on the child’s development (Parent et al., 2017). In studies with parents and on theories about parenting, it is stated that not only mothers but also fathers are effective in the development of the child (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 2007; Teungfung, 2009). The father’s role is independent of the mother’s role (Atmaca-Koçak, 2004; Bögels and Phares, 2008; Lamb and Lewis, 2010), and many recent studies have also raised awareness of the importance of fathers for the development of their children (Akçinar, 2017; Crespi and Ruspini, 2015; Hauari and Hollingworth, 2009; Huerta et al., 2013; Lamb and Lewis, 2010; Paquette et al., 2013; Tutkun and Tezel, 2016). In this context, it is important to examine the situation in Türkiye with respect to fathers looking after children in public settings.

 

The changing fatherhood role

 

Traditionally, fathers are defined as breadwinners (Brandth and Kvande, 1998; Hauari and Hollingworth, 2009; Paquette et al., 2013; Teungfung, 2009). However, the traditional understanding of fatherhood is constantly being reshaped and rearranged according to the cultural setting, work, and family relations (Brandth and Kvande, 1998; Cabrera et al., 2000). In the transition to new societies, factors such as globalization, industrialization, increasing educational levels, increased female employment, and cultural diversity accompany the transformation of gender identities, family models, and intergenerational relationships, as well as restructuring the design and functions of family life. These changes have led to different expectations and beliefs regarding the roles of fathers, as well as different family structures (Cabrera et al., 2000; Crespi and Ruspini, 2015; Kagitcibasi and Ataca, 2005; TAYA, 2014). This significant change in perception of the role of fathers creates a new paternal identity that is often quite different from one’s own father and grandfather (Dick, 2011). In contemporary society, fatherhood requires men to be simultaneously the person who supports the family, guides the family, and helps with household chores (Crespi and Ruspini, 2015). However, while the norms relating to fatherhood may change, behaviors may be more resistant to this change (Lamb and Tamis, 2010). There is no mention of a completed process for the change seen in fathers relating to modern fatherhood or the new understanding of fatherhood, and it is noted that this change is still under way (Hauari and Hollingworth, 2009). The current findings for fathers in Türkiye suggest that the change in the discourse of transition from traditional fatherhood to modern fatherhood shows only a partial trend (Barker et al., 2009; Bolak-Boratav et al., 2014; Bozok, 2018). In this context, culture can still be characterized as traditional, authoritarian, and patriarchal (Sunar and Fi?ek, 2005). However, in the past three decades, Turkish society has seen significant transformations (Kagitcibasi and Ataca, 2005), especially in urban centers, where fathers are more open to global trends and are aware of  the demands of social change (Bolak-Boratav et al., 2014). In addition, it shows that fatherhood is in a process of transition and that change and continuity in Türkiye lead to the coexistence of modern and traditional practices (Kavas and Thornton, 2013). Since this study aims to determine the situation in Türkiye in terms of fathers looking after their children in public settings, it is assumed that the change in the aforementioned fathers affects the situation of fathers looking after their children in public settings. For this purpose, natural observations of parents and children who came to playgrounds, cinemas, stores, toy stores, and restaurants with their children aged 3–5 years were carried out in the study.

 

Fathers’ time spent with children

 

Fathers spend less time with their children than mothers (Baxter et al., 2010; Baxter and Smart, 2010; Bianchi, 2000; Hook et al., 2022; Huerta et al., 2013 and Levtov et al., 2015). The amount of time devoted to children varies considerably between countries (Hook and Wolfe, 2011; Huerta et al., 2013). For example, the total time spent by fathers on childcare is the highest in Australia, Austria, Canada, and the United States, with more than 1 h a day. It was found to be the lowest with less than 30 min a day in Belgium, Estonia, France, Japan, and South Africa (Huerta et al., 2013). In a study conducted in Türkiye, it was determined that fathers spend about 2 hours and 20 minutes with their children in a day. However, although fathers are in the same setting as their children at home, the vast majority of them watches television with their children (78.5%) and chat with them (74%). It was concluded that they do not do much in the way of one-on-one activities to support their development otherwise (Akçinar, 2017). From this point of view, it is very important not only to spend time with the child but also to spend time with activities that are qualified and effective for his/her holistic development (Akçinar, 2017; Bozok, 2018). A study conducted in OECD countries, including Australia, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, also concluded that the important thing is not the amount of father-child interactions, but the quality (Huerta et al., 2013).

 

Fathers interact with boys and girls in different ways than mothers (Levtov et al., 2015). Fathers are more active in partnership with their children and are more likely to engage in activity-based time (Hauari and Hollingworth, 2009) and play with their children (Levtov et al., 2015), from games in the park that are usually not structured, to structured activities such as golf or tennis (Zahra et al., 2015). It was determined that fathers most often played games involving physical contact and strength, such as wrestling or joking, thinking that children should run and move to release their energy (Akçinar, 2017). Children also associate elements of activity and play  more  with  the roles and responsibilities of fathers. They describe the father as someone with whom they can play, have fun, laugh together, and share leisure activities. Children tend to attach great importance to having a parent who is “active,” and this is usually the father (Hauari and Hollingworth, 2009). A study conducted in Türkiye found that fathers prefer to “play games together” as a quality time activity (Turkoglu et al., 2013).

 

Some researchers have found that fathers are more likely to play with boys than girls (Zahra et al., 2015), spending more time in leisure, play, and project activities, and in private interviews (Marsiglio, 1991), it was revealed that they spend more time on sports and other active leisure pursuits (Lundberg et al., 2007), as well as activities such as gardening, car care, animal care, and shopping (Bryant and Zick, 1996). These results may be due to the belief stated by Marsiglio (1991) that fathers are better equipped with the appropriate knowledge and perhaps the skills to look after their sons than their daughters, or, as stated by Tutkun and Tezel (2016), that it may be due to the belief that fathers can do gender-based activities (such as playing/watching football, doing repairs) more comfortably with their sons. Fathers can treat their sons or daughters differently, and pay closer attention to their sons because they are of the same gender (Teungfung, 2009). Children also probably play an active role in the configuration of this model, as they may be more inclined to approach their parents of the same gender when they want to do certain things or discuss important issues (Marsiglio, 1991). It is seen that a gender-based activity model begins at an early age for boys and their fathers. In particular, as children reach puberty, time spent with same-gender parents in gender-specific activities becomes very important (Lundberg et al., 2007).

 

It is important to give children opportunities to participate in activities in public with their families (Baxter et al., 2010). In this context, the use of parks, restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, and stage theaters in the field of leisure activities and social activities of families in public throughout Türkiye constitutes an important part of many people's social life today. Activities carried out with the family not only provide critical findings concerning the importance of the family in our society, but they also give clues about the relations family members have with each other (TAYA, 2014). It can be said that fathers in Türkiye spend time together with their sons and daughters by playing games, watching TV, going to the movies, and going on picnics and to parks (Aydin-Kiliç and Tezel-Sahin, 2018). In this respect, it is important to identify the parents who look after their children the most and spend more time with them in areas such as playgrounds, cinemas, stores, toy stores, and restaurants.

 

Another important issue is that studies on fathers are usually based on mother, child, or teacher evaluations (Bögels and Phares, 2008; Paquette et al., 2013). These evaluations may not fully reflect the state of fathers caring for their children. Therefore, the use of observation in this study may facilitate more reliable identification of behaviors. In addition, despite its increasing importance in Türkiye, it is seen that the studies on the influence of the father are inadequate (Atmaca-Koçak, 2004; Aydin-Kiliç and Tezel-Sahin, 2018). In studies conducted on fathers, data were collected using questionnaires, rating scales, and interview methods (Akçinar, 2017; Aydin-Kiliç and Tezel-Sahin, 2018; Bozok, 2018; TAYA, 2014; Turkoglu et al., 2013) while observational studies were limited (Tutkun and Tezel-, 2016).

 

Observational studies determine the differences in how parents look after their children in public settings, give insight into the situations in which parents care for their children in today’s world, and contribute to the understanding of the circumstances (such as age, gender, weekday, or weekend) under which care for their child changes. At the same time, parental involvement is influenced by various factors such as cultural and social expectations and the existence of family-friendly policies (Cabrera et al., 2000; Dick, 2011; Huerta et al., 2013; Kagitcibasi, 1970; Kagitcibasi, 2020). In this context, it is important to learn more about parents in different social and cultural settings such as Türkiye. Based on all this information, the questions asked in this study are: It is the mother or the father who mainly looks after children in public settings? Is there a relationship between fathers caring for their children in public settings and the children's gender and age? Is there a relationship between fathers looking after their children in public settings and it being a weekday or the weekend?


 METHOD

Participants

 

The study was conducted in Ankara, the capital of Türkiye. Approximately 5.663 million people live in Ankara and 49.54% of the population is male and 50.46% female (TUIK, 2020). Observational data were collected from five different areas, namely, playgrounds, movie theaters, stores, toy stores, and restaurants in 21 shopping malls. Among the 522 children observed, 52.9% were girls and 47.1% were boys; 21.6% of them were 3 years old, 34.9% were 4 years old, and 43.5% were 5 years old. Overall, 43% of the mothers were under the age of 30, 53.3% were working, and 51.7% had at least an associate degree or a higher educational degree. Whereas 33.1% of the fathers were between the ages of 30–35, 98.1% were working, and 73.4% had at least an associate degree or higher.

 

Procedure

 

Observational data were collected by the author and a team of volunteer students. The author provided observers with 10 h of training in the purpose of the study and observation procedures. At the end of the training, two preliminary observations were made for each observation area. Data obtained from these observations were excluded from the analysis. At the end of the training, the observers  observed  the  children  they  thought  were between the ages of 3-5 in the shopping malls and the adults with them in their natural setting without letting them realize that they were being observed and marked the criteria in the observation forms prepared to decide which adult was looking after the child the most. If the child was with a single adult, this adult was recorded as the one who looked after the child the most. In cases where there was more than one adult, the one who held the child’s hand (or the adult sitting next to the child in a restaurant), who chatted with the child, intervened, or helped the child was identified as the adult who looked after the child the most. In cases where it could not be decided whether the adult who looked after the child the most was the mother or father, the observation was canceled and the observation data were excluded from the analysis.

 

Observation sessions lasted 30 min on average. During this time, the observers recorded data for all children in the target age group. When the observation ended, the observers went up to the parents they had observed in their natural setting, and first introduced themselves then talked briefly about the study being made and its purpose As for the ethics of the study, the parents were informed that this study is voluntary and that the personal information of the participants will not be disclosed in the study. Subsequently, participant consent was obtained for some observed variables: Is the child’s age between 3 and 5? Is the adult mother or father next to the child? What is the gender of the child? The observation was canceled and the observation forms were excluded from the analysis if the child’s age was not between 3 and 5, if the adult next to the child was not the mother or father of the child, or if the participant did not give consent to participate in the study. To generalize the situation of parents coming to shopping malls with their children, the observation days and hours were diversified to be between 10.00 a.m. and 10.00 p.m. on weekdays and weekends. The analysis is based on 522 observations collected in the fall of 2019 in Ankara.

 

Data analysis

 

Observation forms were created to make natural observations of parents and children. In the form, the estimated age of the child was coded as 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years, and the gender of the child was coded as male and female. Then, the gender of the observed adult was coded in two categories: mother (female), father (male). The status of the observed adults was coded into four categories: an adult (one male or one female), mixed-gender couple (male and female), same-gender group (two or more adults of the same gender), and mixed-gender group (three or more adults with both men and women). Areas were coded as playground, Movie Theater, store, toy store, and restaurant. The day and time of observation were recorded.

 

In each observation area, the first 10 observations of the adult caring for the child were made by the author and one observer. At the same time, two observers observed the same children and adults and evaluated them independently of each other. The Kappa coefficient was used to demonstrate consistency between observers, and when the relationship between them was evaluated (Kiliç, 2015), it was found to fit perfectly (K=1.00, p<0.001).

 

The Chi-Square test was used to analyze the relationship between the independent variables examined in the study and the parents who looked after the child in public. To reveal the level of the relationship between variables, phi (Φ) coefficients were calculated in cases where both variables consist of two categories, and Cramer’s V (C’V) coefficients were calculated in cases where at least one variable comprised three or more categories (Kilmen, 2015; Pallant, 2016).


 RESULTS

The parent looking after children the most in public settings

 

As part of the study, the univariate Chi-Square test was used to test whether there is a difference between parents in looking after children in public settings (Table 1). It is seen that there is a significant difference between parents in looking after children in public settings (X2(1)=35.433, p<.001). The observed and expected values are quite different from each other. It was found that 63.03% of mothers look after their children in public. Accordingly, it was found that mainly mothers look after the child in public settings, and fathers look after their children less than mothers.

 

Gender and age of the child and fathers looking after their children

 

When Table 2 is examined, it is seen that there is a significant relationship between the gender of the child and fathers looking after their children in public (X2(1)=42.867, Φ=.29, p<.001). This situation is demonstrated by the fact that the observed frequency and expected frequency values are not close to each other. Analysis determined that mothers (76.1%) generally look after girls in public settings, and fathers (51.6%) look after boys. Accordingly, it was determined that the child’s care in public settings is affected by the gender of the child and that fathers look after boys while mothers look after girls in these settings. It was determined that the relationship between the child’s age and the parent looking after the child in public settings was not statistically significant (X2(2)=2.285, C’V=.07, p>.05). Accordingly,it was concluded that the age of the child does not affect the child’s care in public settings.

 

Fathers looking after their children on weekdays and weekends

 

Results of Chi-Square analysis applied to determine whether there is a relationship between the day on which the observation took place and fathers looking after the most their children in public settings are included in Table 3. When Table 3 is examined, it is seen that there is a significant relationship between the day the observation was performed and the parent who was observed to be looking after the child the most in public (X2(1)=35.497, Φ=.26, p<.001). As a result of the analysis, it was found that mainly mothers (74.8%) look after children in public during the weekdays, and fathers (50.4%) look after them more on the weekends with a slight difference. Accordingly, it was found that fathers are more likely to look after their children in public on weekends than on weekdays.

 


 DISCUSSION

The situation in Türkiye regarding fathers looking after their children in public settings was determined through natural observations of parents and children aged 3–5 years who came to playgrounds, movie theaters, stores, toy stores, and restaurants. The study yielded very important results in terms of fathers in Türkiye looking after their children. One of the most important results revealed in this study is that it is mainly mothers who look after their children in public settings, while fathers do not look after their children as much. A similar study conducted in Türkiye concluded that in bookstores, which are a public setting, it is the mother who mainly looks after the children (Tutkun and Tezel-, 2016). It can be thought that this situation stems from social and cultural differences. For example, Kagitcibasi (1970), states that there are differences in Turkish and American societies in terms of social and familial factors. A study conducted by Amato (1989) in the United States revealed that men are primarily concerned with the care of their children in public places compared with women. However, in the children’s section of the public library in Northern Arizona, it was observed that the majority of parents/adult caregivers accompanying children for their protection are women (Becker, 2012). Other studies in different cultures have shown that men in Pakistan are more likely than women to hold and carry their children in public places (Jahn and Aslam, 1995). In Thailand (Teungfung, 2009; Australia, 2009), studies conducted with Pakistani, British, Black Caribbean, and African fathers found that fathers devote less time to their children compared with mothers (Hauari and Hollingworth, 2009). In this context, in light of the results of studies made in Türkiye and different cultures, it cannot be said that fathers, in general,  have  moved  away  from  traditional fatherhood and fully adopted the new or modern concept of fatherhood. In addition, it can be stated that this change in paternal behavior is still ongoing and is not complete. Furthermore, one of the reasons why fathers devote less time to their children outside of the home may be that they lack sufficient knowledge and experience in dealing with children to know what to do in such circumstances, or how to spend more quality and productive time with their children. In their study, Turkoglu et al. (2013) stated that one of the factors that prevent quality time between father and child is that fathers do not know how to spend time with their children.

 

One important conclusion of the study is that fathers usually look after boys and mothers usually look after girls in public settings. This result is consistent with other studies showing that the child's gender affects the father's participation (Amato, 1989; Lundberg et al., 2007; Marsiglio, 1991; Tutkun and Tezel- 2016). In the United States, for example, it was concluded that boys spend significantly more time with their fathers than girls (Lundberg et al., 2007), and fathers spend 18 min more with boys than girls (Yeung et al., 2001). In a study conducted in different provinces of Türkiye, it was determined that the involvement levels of fathers living in Ankara and Erzurum did not differ significantly according to the gender of their children, but the involvement of fathers living in Trabzon was influenced by the gender of the children. It was determined that fathers living in Trabzon had higher involvement levels with boys than girls (Aydin-Kiliç and Tezel-Sahin, 2018).

 

Social differences may be one of the underlying factors in fathers spending more time with their sons than their daughters. Sexist attitudes toward children in Türkiye affect paternal behavior (Akçinar, 2017). Family dynamics, gender roles, social change, attitudes, and values (Kagitcibasi, 1982) regarding children change over time. Comparisons made in 1975 and 2003 showed that having boys was less important in 2003 than it was in 1975. This change is explained by important transformations over the past three decades (Kagitcibasi and Ataca 2005). In another study, 76% of the parents did not indicate a preference for their child to be a boy or a girl. But in interviews, some participants expressed a preference for a boy. Different values are attributed to boys and girls in Turkish society. Situations such as the boy’s continuation of the lineage, expressing power, and taking care of the family (Akçinar, 2017) are reflected in them getting more education and their reluctance to educate girls. Official statistics show higher literacy rates and higher levels of educational achievement for men than for women of all ages (Sunar and Fisek, 2005). In this respect, it is seen that traditional gender roles still exist and that the child’s gender is influential in the father’s participation.

 

It was found that mainly mothers looked after their children in public settings during the week while fathers mainly   looked after them on weekends. Therefore, although mothers are primarily responsible for looking after their children on weekdays, fathers seem to share this responsibility with mothers more on the weekend. Studies examining the time differences that fathers spend with their children on weekdays and weekends have shown that they spend more time with their children on weekends (Baxter et al., 2010; Hook and Wolfe, 2011; Maume, 2011; Yeung et al., 2001; Zahra et al., 2015), and they spend more quality time on weekends than on weekdays (Turkoglu et al., 2013). In this context, it is observed that there is both a quantitative and a qualitative increase in terms of fathers spending time with their children on weekends. The main reasons behind this condition include fathers’ working hours and working conditions (Zahra et al., 2015), working until the evening on weekdays, work stress, and fatigue (Turkoglu et al., 2013), as well as fathers’ earnings and the mother’s contribution to total family income (Yeung et al., 2001). Maume (2011) found that the temporal increase in fathers’ time with children was three times greater on weekends compared with weekdays. More work by fathers usually reduces the time they spend with their children (Bianchi, 2000; Bryant and Zick, 1996) and Harrington et al. (2011) interviewed 963 fathers in their study of fathers and childcare. The study observed that many fathers wanted to share the responsibility of childcare with their partners, but most of the time did not fulfill this desire. It was stated that the main reasons fathers could not fulfill this desire were working hours and working conditions. Taken as a whole, it shows that factors such as working hours, working conditions, and income levels are effective in fathers looking after their children on weekends.

 

When we examined different studies on whether there was a difference between countries in which fathers looked after their children more on the weekend than on weekdays, one study examining father participation in the United States, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom found that fathers mainly looked after their children on weekends (Hook and Wolfe, 2011). In Australia, it was concluded that fathers spent more time on weekends with preschool children than on weekdays (Baxter et al., 2010). Evidence from the United States also revealed that the amount of time the child was with his father more than doubled on weekends compared to weekdays (Yeung et al., 2001). In a nationwide study carried out with fathers in Turkey, it was determined that fathers who cannot spend much time with their children due to the busy work schedule during the week try to make up for this on weekends and take more interest in their children at that time (Akçinar, 2017). The study examined the nature of the time fathers spent with their children between the ages of 3 and6 in Türkiye and found that they spent longer and more qualified time with their children on weekends compared to weekdays (Turkoglu et al., 2013). In this study, it was found that fathers looked after their children  on the weekend, albeit with a small difference. So the result for the weekend reveals that fathers are undergoing a shift toward a new paternal role on weekends.

 

According to the findings, the age of the child does not affect which parent looks after the child in public settings. In this study, children between the ages of 3 and 5 in preschool were included. It is difficult to generalize and compare between age groups from the results in previous studies since it differs in the age of the children covered in the studies on this subject. Most of them focus on different age groups such as infancy (ages 0-2), preschool years (ages 3-5), early school years (ages 6-8), and preteen years (ages 9-12) (Baxter, 2009; Yeung et al., 2001, for a review). In this study, the fact that the age of the child does not make any difference is due to the fact that the age range of the children in the study is not very high. Consistent with this study, it was observed that the involvement levels of fathers living in Ankara, Trabzon, and Erzurum in their children’s lives did not differ significantly according to the age of the children (Aydin-Kiliç and Tezel-Sahin, 2018). In addition, one Australian study concluded that the time fathers spend with their children differs little depending on the age of the child (Baxter, 2009) and that the level of father involvement decreases as the child’s age increases (Yeung et al., 2001).


 CONCLUSION

The aim of this study was to learn about the situation in Türkiye of fathers looking after their children in public settings and showed that mothers look after their children in public settings the most, and fathers look after them less, but this is changing in favor of the fathers, albeit by a small margin, on the weekend. It was also determined that the gender of the children affected the state of care for them and that fathers mostly looked after boys and mothers mostly looked after girls. In light of this data, it is clear that Türkiye is experiencing a cultural shift in paternal values, but this shift has only had a limited impact on behavior. However, it can be said that fathers are experiencing a shift toward their new roles during weekends.


 LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This study had some limitations. First, participants were limited to parents who came with their children to public settings such as playgrounds, cinemas, stores, toy stores, and restaurants in a single city. Similar studies in other cities or different areas such as zoos, amusement parks, or children’s hospitals can increase generalizability. In future studies, observations can be made in public settings for infancy, early childhood, and later age groups by providing a difference between the age groups of children. In addition, the data were limited  to  what  could be noticed through observation. In particular, more information about fathers’ income, job, and working conditions can be obtained through research using alternative methods. Therefore, variables such as fathers’ hours of work, total time spent at work, and income levels are important factors to be examined in future studies. Finally, more research will be needed, especially since going to public settings has changed during the pandemic.


 CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The author has not declared any conflict of interests.



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