What Makes Fathers Involved? Exploring the Relationship Between Paid Work and Childcare

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Helen NORMAN , Sociology, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Colette FAGAN , University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Although fathers’ roles have been adapting over the last three decades financial provisioning remains the essence of ‘good’ fathering and the work schedules associated with fathers’ employment is a key factor that shapes their involvement in childcare and domestic work. However, the relative impact of fathers’ and mothers’ employment on paternal involvement in childcare is unclear, and little is known about the longer term impact, that is, whether the way parents’ organise their work and childcare arrangements in the first year of the child’s life impacts on paternal involvement as the child grows up.

This paper, based on work by Norman, Elliot and Fagan (Community Work and Family, forthcoming), investigates some of the tensions between employment and a father’s involved caregiver role. We open with a review of the qualitative and quantitative results from previous studies concerning father’s contributions to childraising, including the facilitating influence which statutory parental leave policies and other reconciliation measures have played in some countries. Then we focus on employed couples to explore the association that mothers’ and fathers’ employment hours have with paternal involvement when their child is aged three. Multivariate analysis using the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study reveals it is the mothers’ employment hours when the child is aged three that has the largest association with paternal involvement in childcare at this stage in the child’s life, independent of what hours the father works. Furthermore, both parent's employment hours when the child was nine months old have a longitudinal influence on paternal involvement when the child reaches three, but it is the hours a mother works when the child was aged nine months that has the stronger association with paternal involvement at age three. This suggests mothers’ work schedules are more important for fostering paternal involvement in both the immediate and longer term.