Fathers, Childcare and Work: Volume 12

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Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Fathers’ Experiences, Attitudes and Beliefs


Using data from a qualitative longitudinal sample of 31 non-traditional fathers-to-be interviewed in 2011 and then again in 2013, when the child was about 18 months old, we examine the relationship between prenatal anticipation and the development of ‘positive paternal involvement’ (i.e. an engaged, accessible and responsible type of fatherhood). We expect differences with regard to the antenatal development of a non-normative father identity to explain variations in subsequent paternal involvement. While there might be – and there often is – a discrepancy between fathers’ prenatal intentions and actual practices after childbirth, anticipating concrete needs and actively foreseeing particular paid work adaptations favour the development of a positive paternal involvement. Our analysis reveals the importance of anticipation during pregnancy – that is, the development of an identity as a father and of explicit plans for employment adaptations – in facilitating men’s greater implication in care. The empirical findings also show that non-traditional gender attitudes and favourable working conditions facilitate fathers’ involvement, yet are not enough in themselves to guarantee the development of a positive type of fatherhood covering the three noted dimensions of care. Achieving the latter in Spain will likely require the encouragement of shared parenting responsibilities through normative changes in workplaces, the revision of parental leave policies and the integration of fathers-to-be in prenatal education classes. Our research contributes to shedding new light on the elements that favour a positive paternal involvement, which has the potential to enhance both children’s well-being and gender equality.


During the transition to parenthood, the gender division of paid and unpaid work undergoes a profound redefinition in response to both attitudes and resources. These attitudes may be concordant or discordant between two partners, they may or may not clash with perceived financial or labour market constraints, and they may or may not provoke explicit conflicts and negotiations. In this study, by combining quantitative and qualitative data, we focus on Italian couples with young children or in transition to first child, and we explore what happens when partners have discordant views. The findings show that the division of domestic and care work seems more resistant to change and more responsive to the husband’s attitudes than does the division of paid work, as the latter is mainly driven by the woman’s education and attitudes. The findings also show that very few couples overtly disagree. If they do so, the main issue in dispute is the allocation of domestic work and the main solution consists more in hiring external help than in obtaining the husband’s greater participation. Compared with domestic work, the allocation of care is a less disputed and more flexible issue: when women start negotiations on a more equal sharing, men are more willing to increase their participation. However, when a more equal sharing is not attained, couples’ narratives tend to give the “cause” to the constraints of the man (typically his work) than of the woman, while they point at a redefinition (for the best of the family) of her rather than his preferences.


Recent qualitative social research about Mexican families and gender relations underlines the fact that changes in male involvement in domestic life have occurred and that significant changes in paternal responsibilities have been reported, especially among younger fathers with high educational levels and living in urban settings. Significant lags have also been detected in rural and indigenous communities regarding women’s status and the reduction of gender gaps.

On the basis of this, we analysed data from the 2014 National Time Use Survey of Mexico in order to determine whether there are significant differences in the time spent on child raising between rural and urban fathers. We also used a regression model to measure the effect of the place of residence and other socio-demographic characteristics on Mexican fathers’ level of involvement in raising their children.

Our results updated the indicators on the generational change in fathers’ collaboration in childcare and show that fathers living in urban settings are more involved – measured in time effectively spent in child raising than their rural counterparts. Furthermore, the occupations of fathers and especially that of mothers are of particular interest as factors that encourage or discourage greater male involvement in child raising.


The chapter draws on recent scientific findings on the participation of fathers in childcare, and the perception of the role of fathers by both men and women in the Czech Republic. We apply a mixed method approach, combining qualitative data from longitudinal research on transition to motherhood and fatherhood (TransPARENT), which traced 16 parental couples for four years, with data from quantitative surveys on the topics of parenting and work–life balance. The data are examined for the incidence of breadwinner and the involved father models in Czech families. We focus on the earliest stage of the family life course, that is, when the children are aged between zero and four years. We show that fathers of young children still predominantly assume the breadwinner role, leaving most childcare to mothers. However, the growing number of parents expressing a preference for a more equal sharing of childcare indicates a shift in both the perception of fatherhood and the value placed on the active participation of fathers in early childcare in the Czech Republic. The main limitation of this text is that it only focuses on families with very young children. The future research should fill the gaps in contemporary knowledge of Czech families by addressing the division of roles, and particularly the roles of fathers, in households with school-age children. The chapter suggests that fathers’ greater involvement in childcare could be stimulated by policy measures such as the introduction of paternal leave or broadening the range of (public) childcare services for the youngest children.

Work Organizations and Childcare Experts Cultures


Most studies on work–life support at workplaces consider work–life balance to be a women’s issue, either explicitly or implicitly. This chapter analyses how fathers who are involved caregivers are supported or hindered in attaining work–life balance by their workplaces. It explores the following three questions: (1) why fathers value some job adaptations over others compared with mothers; (2) how organizational cultures influence the work–life balance of new fathers and (3) what differences exist across public and private sectors as well as large versus small companies. A qualitative approach with three discussion groups and 22 involved fathers enables us to explore these issues for large companies, public sector workplaces and small businesses. We find that tight time schedules, flextime, telework, schedule control and fully paid nontransferable leaves of absence constitute policies that favor involved fatherhood, while measures without wage replacement generate fear of penalization in the workplace and do not fit the persistent relevance of the provider role. In addition, un-similar supervisors, envy, lack of understanding and gender stereotypes among co-workers and clients constitute cultural barriers at the workplace level. Contrary to our expectations, small businesses may offer a better work–life balance than large companies, while the public sector is not always as family-friendly as assumed.


The objective of this chapter is twofold: (1) to analyse meanings and practices regarding the work-family balance of fathers from different social and cultural backgrounds and (2) to explore how infancy experts and workplace cultures can influence the paid work and childcare reconciliation practices of native and immigrant fathers in Italy, in particular, from the point of view of fathers making the transition to parenthood. Little attention is paid to the role of infancy experts and workplace cultures in shaping fathers’ reconciliation perspectives. Moreover, little research has been dedicated to parenting practices among immigrant families from the fathers’ point of view. We investigate how parenthood is perceived and experienced by native and immigrant fathers, focussing on cultural differences with regard to beliefs about gender roles, children’s needs and childbearing. Our work is based on a qualitative analysis of 61 qualitative interviews with fathers, born in Italy, Romania, Peru and Morocco living in (the north of) Italy, carried out between 2010 and 2015. The results show how both infancy experts and workplace cultures tend to reinforce the widespread hegemonic ideals on ‘good father as provider’ both for natives and for immigrant fathers, despite their different socio-cultural backgrounds.


Realizing gender equality and parenthood still seems to be a contradictory endeavour. In consequence, family policies in Europe focus on paternal involvement and increasing women’s participation in the labour market. Nevertheless, consequences of gender pay gap on family arrangements still set limits to these policies.

This chapter reveals results of qualitative research on paternal leave practices and fathers’ involvement in the family in Austria. The empirical data set includes 36 guided interviews with fathers on paternal leave, 12 with female partners, 16 with human resources managers and 14 follow-up questionings with part-time working men and women. The research investigates effects of long-term leave arrangements on the distribution of family work, gainful employment and individual interests.

Mainly best practice models in undoing gender in family and work arrangements are explored. Subsequently, a high proportion of good earning fathers and couples with tertiary education are represented in the sample. Nevertheless, quantitative studies in Austria confirm higher proportions of fathers aged 40 plus on paternal leave. They take this decision mainly as a ‘tribute to the family’, once or twice in a life-time.

However, long-term care data on work-family-life balancing currently do not show significant changes in gendered patterns. By contrast, gender disparities are still reproduced in the labour market. Theoretically, the chapter shows the impact of gender studies, feminist theories and sociology of the family on realizing gender equality in private and public spheres. It outlines recommendations for family policy makers and for readers interested in relations between realizing work–life balance and gender budgeting.


The purpose of this chapter is to analyse the interplay between fathers’ perceptions of the workplace and how they enact fatherhood. Data were derived from qualitative in-depth interviews with seven elite, professional fathers employed at multinational manufacturing corporations in Detroit, Michigan. Fathers are highly educated, have a significant income and all but one have wives in the paid labour market. This study shows how the persistence of the ideal worker norm and penalties for using work-family policies (WFP) perpetuate the gendered division of paid and unpaid work. First, fathers who are ideal workers are rewarded; fathers who do not face criticism and obstacles to promotions. Second, management and supervisor’s discretion results in uneven access to WFP, penalizing fathers for asking and preventing most from using them. Third, fathers express desire to be ‘involved’, but their engagement is largely visible fatherhood.

This study extends our theoretical understandings of work, WFP and fatherhood from a distinct departure point – the elite fathers highlighted here have been parenting for at least three years, and live and work in circumstances that seemingly would allow them to disrupt normative expectations of work and family. The United States provides a unique backdrop to examine the navigation of competing work and family demands because reconciliation is largely left to employees and their families. Public and individual company policies are not enough; there must be a corresponding supportive family-friendly culture – supervisor support and penalty-free WFP – to disrupt gendered work and family.

Changing Fatherhood, Changing Policies?


The goal of this chapter is to analyse the factors that might have affected the gender division of labour in Japan by investigating the interaction between policies, culture and practices on gender equality and fathers’ involvement in childcare, and examine whether there is possibility of moving towards a more equal share of paid work and care as in other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. To achieve this goal, the chapter explores the changes in the discourse of experts and policy makers on the role of fathers and mothers in the care of children, legislation aimed at the resolution of the gendered division of labour and larger involvement of fathers in childcare and the resultant change (or persistence) in individual attitudes and practices of fathers and mothers.

The overview of the changes in Japan suggests that the culture, institutions, and practices related to fathers’ involvement in childcare interact with each other at different paces and bring a greater involvement of fathers in childcare.

However, the preceding increase in fathers’ time in childcare and housework still only results in a much shorter time than fathers spend in most of the European countries. Although, the rapid increase after 2010 in the proportion of mothers who continue to work after childbearing may trigger a breakthrough in the persistent gendered division of labour in Japan, this would also require other components of gender arrangements such as effective regulation of working time.


The Nordic welfare model is known in the literature for its explicit support of the equal treatment of men and women in both family and gender equality policies as well as its achievements in these policy areas. Policy arguments have to promote gender equality and act in the best interest of the child, ensuring that the child access to care from both parents as well as to early childhood education and care. However, the knowledge of how the Nordic welfare states frame and promote active fatherhood remains fragmented.

The chapter asks whether the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) have developed similar policies on fatherhood or have taken different paths. Hence, the chapter examines three main policy areas affecting fatherhood: family law, family cash benefits and paid parental leave. Comparative perspective is applied and the chapter asks how the policies frame and promote active fatherhood while also looking into how fatherhood is shaped in interaction between policies, cultures and the daily practices of fathers.

Results show that while all Nordic governments promote a dual-earner/dual-carer social democratic welfare state model emphasizing the active participation of fathers in the care of their children, variations exist in policy and practices. Care policies and entitlements to a father quota of paid parental leave are a defining factor for enhancing fathers’ role in care of their children and the findings show that Nordic fathers are making use of their quota and gradually increasing their share in taking leave for the care of young children.

Cover of Fathers, Childcare and Work
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Book series
Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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