Fatherhood (Analysis)
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 2
 
TOPICS COVERED: Fatherhood's a popular issue in the media – but is it as popular to be a father as it is to report on them?
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Daughters, Grandparents, Single Parents, Family Structures, Caregivers in the Workforce, Families at Work, How People Spend Their Time
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 
 

PAGE INDEX:

 

THE TREND: DADS ARE MORE INVOLVED

HOW THEY GET IT RIGHT

HOW THEY GET IT WRONG

 
 
THE TREND AS IDENTIFIED IN MASS MEDIA:

The Media identify the increasing involvement of men raising being a partner with their spouse, doing the housework, actively raising their children, from making a transition from uninvolved breadwinner to involved daddy who goes to all his son's baseball games even if he has to lie to his bosses or get on a daddy track to do so. And there's a growing number of stay-at-home dads, to boot.
 
 
HOW THEY GET IT RIGHT:
 
Fathers are becoming more emotionally involved with their children, and they spend more time with their kids now than before.
 
Media reports are generally right that fathers are becoming increasingly emotionally involved with their children, and they do actually spend more time with their children than in decades past. So, yes, but . . . .
 
 
HOW THEY GET IT WRONG:
 
Point 1: Essentially, it's just wishful thinking. The dramatic increase in father's participation isn't happening. Gradual yes. Very gradual to the point of flat-line.
 
There was an initial spike in the 1970s, but since then not so much. Yes, there are more fathers who have custody, staying at home, etc, but it's still a tiny percentage. Note that most of the articles say a father profiled is rare, but in a growing minority. But they've been saying that for 30 years, and he's still rare but a growing minority.
 
Point 2: Similarly, there is an increase in paternal time spent raising the children, women, too, increased their time with the kids: women still far outweigh the male involvement on a day to day basis. And the increase is not as dramatic as articles make it out to be.
 
While there is an increase, mothers' increased their time with their kids as well, and their involvement far outstrips the fathers'. And at least one study has determined that the increase may be determined by the mothers' roles – the fathers' activities complement, not replace the mothers' actions.
 
 
Point 3: The role of the father is extremely class-based: wealthier, more educated fathers are the ones getting more involved.
 
Note that is clearly reflected in the interview subjects chosen for the articles.
 
Point 4: The role of the father is extremely culture-based.
 
Articles don't even mention the cultural differences in fathering a child. And note that is clearly reflected in the interview subjects chosen for the articles; they're usually white. (There's a whole sub-genre of family articles about the purportedly decaying African American family and the absent black father.) NB that the hispanic machismo image of a distant father is also still very much intact.
 
Point 5: The number of stay-at-home dads is still tiny compared to that of mothers, and – while there has been an increase – it hasn't changed that significantly.
 
For those men who've made the move home, it has been economics (i.e., the wife makes more or he's been laid off), not a desire to be with the kids that has been the reason why: it's more likely that a man is out of work because of illness or disability than is voluntarily at home with kids. Note that while the first official stay at home parent report has 98,000 stay-at-home-dads in 2003, that is a decrease from 2002's 105,000. And there was a dramatic leap in the number of stay-at-home-dads in 2004 – but again, this may have more to do with a tough job market than a desire to stay home.
 
Point 6: The New Fatherhood Movement coincided with the rise of the media reports on Deadbeat Dad / Absent Father.