Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Should Dad Care?

A recently released study by The Ohio State University suggests that in families with young children, the parents were more likely to have a stronger and more supportive co-parenting relationship if the dad was more involved in play activities than in caregiving activities with the child. On the flip side, if the dad spent more time in caregiving activities (i.e. preparing meals, bathing the child, etc.), the parents were more likely to be less supportive and more undermining towards each other.

Given that today’s dads have taken on significantly more responsibility in the home and family than previous generations of fathers, this is an interesting and, at first glance, a potentially concerning finding.

This increased likelihood of tension between parents when dad helps out with the kids might be due to the mom’s response to the father. The study noted that, “fathers’ increased involvement in caregiving might also arouse negative maternal gatekeeping behaviors (a particular type of undermining behavior) as mothers consciously or unconsciously try to protect their authority over parenting.”

NFI recently conducted a survey called Mama Says of 1,533 moms (a sample more than 10 times the size of the OSU study) on their attitudes about fathering. A couple findings from that survey are relevant here:

  • 84% of moms recognize that mothers and fathers parent in different ways.
  • 93% of moms think mothers are more nurturing than fathers
  • 66% of moms think they’d be able to balance work and family better if they had more support from the father.
The bottom line is that moms and dads are wired to interact with their kids in different ways. But different doesn’t always mean wrong. Different can actually be helpful, if both parties can recognize that.

Kids need both their parents to be involved in all aspects of their lives. How mom and dad divide parenting responsibilities will vary from family to family, but if both parents can be mutually supportive of each other, everyone wins – especially the kids.

3 comments:

  1. The reverse side of that is the mom being upset with the dad for not doing anything to help with the kids. It can't be both ways here.

    I think the problem is that the world has changed more over the last sixty years than people can handle easily. The change in technology has been largely embraced, but our social values are much slower to change. Many of us have parents or grandparents where the father earned the money and the mother stayed home to raise the children. In that dynamic, even though the father should do some caregiving when he's off work, there's far less need to than in today's society where both father and mother have full-time jobs in most families. For first generation dual-income families, I think both parents are struggling to adjust to a role that is foreign to how they were raised.

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