Friday, March 03, 2006

Re: Are New Dads more likely to have grown up in divorced families?

From Po:

I’ve been combing the databanks to test my hypothesis that New Dads might be slightly more likely to have grown up in divorced families. I found some other intriguing correlations, as well as some other data that might suggest I’m on track.

First, I found a study that said New Dads are usually married to women who also have a heightened involvement in caregiving. (This was caregiving of both children and elderly). It’s possible that New Dads simply choose to marry very nurturing women. It’s also possible that these men are simply following their wife’s lead and stepping up when prodded, “Oh, Honey …” But because a New Dad is likely to be married to a highly-involved mom, the result is that he’s still not doing half. He’s doing more, but she’s also doing more, so he’s still behind …

The same study also found that if a man grew up with sisters, he is less likely today to be a New Dad (he makes a smaller contribution to caregiving). Brothers had no affect. I speculate that with sisters around, the girls are often first in line to be roped into cleaning and cooking and caring for the youngest siblings. Without sisters around, a boy is more likely to be called on to help mom out. And he’s more likely to be comfortable wearing an apron when he grows up.

Now, this next one is almost right on point:

A study from last September was focused on the sub-category of stay-at-home fathers. Just for reference, there are somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 stay at home fathers in the United States (the number fluctuates year to year with the economy). This study found that these men became more involved with their children because their own fathers were not involved in their upbringing. In other words, you’re more likely to be the kind of Dad who changes diapers if your own father wasn’t around to help when you were in diapers. You want to be there for your children, because you know what it was like to grow up without a father.

Don’t take that wrong – I’m not saying that unfathered boys turn into better Dads. Across the board, we know the opposite. But within that aggregate, there is a subsection of men who have consciously chosen to learn from their experience and be the kind of Dad they never had.

That was certainly what I heard in my interviews. Men (and women) aspired to be the kind of parent they never had.

Okay, my internal gyroscope is calling out to me, saying “Bring out the bullshit detector.” My hypothesis here is that a husband is more likely to be a New Dad if he came from a divorced home – uh, really? More so than if he had two married parents who were a constant presence? I gotta admit, my hypothesis suddenly sounds fishy … Let me revise, then. Let me excise the “more likely” from my hypothesis – and not speculate on comparable percentages. I’m really just articulating a dynamic: Many of us began our life in homes where labor was divided in the traditional way – father as provider, mother as nurturer. When they divorced, we were suddenly exposed to a gender-blurring in our role models, and we were roped into the housework … and this helped us be New Dads today.


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