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"...highly informative..." (Infant and Child Development, Dec 05)
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"...highly informative..." (Infant and Child Development, Dec 05)
During the last 10 years attention has focused on fathers more than at any time prior to the beginning of the twentieth century mainly because of the rapid pace of family change (i.e. the decline in the traditional household form of a single breadwinner and the growth of dual participant households). The consequences, especially for children, of these changes have long been the subject of research and debate. Subsequently, research on fathering has both expanded considerably and matured scientifically as it started to move away from exploring the consequences of 'father absence' for children to understanding possible mechanisms of influence of fathering in both father-present and father-absent families.
FATHERS AND THE 'MODERN' FAMILY: THE CURRENT PICTURE
The role of fathers in developed countries has changed over time. In the USA, Demos (1988) discussed how, during the colonial period, fathers were the primary parent and had ultimate say in matters of the child; in the rare case of divorce, the law awarded custody to the father, as mothers were considered too emotional and too indulgent to raise children properly. The advent of industrialisation in the nineteenth century redefined the roles of mothers and fathers, with the role of fathers becoming predominantly that of 'provider', and mothers becomingthe parent with primary responsibility for children, and the operation of the household (Demos, 1988). As 'homemakers' in the suburbs mothers became increasingly isolated from life outside the family, mainly because the contributions that they had previously made to the economic well-being of the family decreased. All European countries have also historically given patriarchal authority to the father, although the form that this has taken has varied. In the UK, for instance, equal guardianship rights were not secured by mothers over their children until 1973 (Lewis, 2001b). However, the rapid pace of family change over the past decade has meant that in Britain, for instance, in one generation the numbers marrying have halved, the numbers divorcing have trebled, and the proportion of children born outside of marriage has quadrupled (McRae, 2000). Britain is not alone in experiencing these changes. The most recent (2003) statistics show that all 15 European Union member states have recorded an increase in births outside marriage since the mid-1970s. There are some differences, however. Data for 2000 showed that of the 25 (as of 1 May 2004) European Union countries, Cyprus (2.3%) has the lowest rate followed by Greece (4.1%) and Italy (9.6%). At the end of the scale, the highest percentages are in Denmark (42.6%), France (42.6%), Latvia (43.1%), Sweden (55.5%) and Estonia (56.3%), where over half of all children are born outside marriage (Eurostat Yearbook, 2003). At around 40% the UK has a high percentage of live births outside marriage. Most of the increase in the number of births outside marriage has been to cohabiting couples (that is, parents living at the same address). In 2001 three-quarters of births outside marriage in England and Wales were jointly registered by both parents and, of these births, three in four were to parents living at the same address (Office for National Statistics, 2003). The growth in the proportion of births outside marriage, and divorce - in the UK the divorce rate has risen from 2.0 per 1000 married population in 1960 to 13.6 in 1995 (Office for National Statistics, 1998) - has resulted in an increase in loneparent families. In Spring 2002 a fifth of dependent children in Britain lived in lone-parent families (2% lived in lone-father families, and 19% lived in lone-mother families), almost twice the proportion as in 1981. The current North American picture is not dissimilar, with the latter half of the twentieth century having witnessed a sharp rise in non-marital child-bearing in the USA, as well. Although in 1940 only 4% of all births in the USA occurred outside marriage, in 1999 one-third of births were to unmarried mothers (Ventura & Bachrach, 2000). Currently, the proportion of children in the USA who lived with only one parent at some point during their childhood is expected to continue and exceed 50% (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth & Lamb, 2000). Similarly, although in 1960 only 6% of families in the USA were headed by females in 1998, that proportion had risen to 24% (US Bureau of the Census, 1998). Generally, the percentage of female-headed households (usually, but not necessarily, with dependent children) is very high in some countries. The highest rates of female headship are reported in the African countries of Botswana (47%) and Swaziland (40%), and the Caribbean countries such as the US Virgin Islands (45%) and Haiti (39%). Some rates in the developed countries are at least equally high, ranging from 44% in Slovenia, 42% in Denmark and Finland, and 37% in New Zealand and Sweden (United Nations, 2000).
In addition, 1 in 8 children in the UK is expected to live at some stage before age 16 in a family in which their birth parent has either formed a new partnership or has remarried (Dunn, 2002), whereas in the USA it is estimated that about one-third of children will live with a step-parent, usually a stepfather, before reaching age 18 (Hofferth & Anderson, 2003). In 2000/01 in the UK stepfamilies accounted for 8% of families with dependent children whose head was under age 60. The majority (88%) of these consisted of a couple with one or more children from the previous relationship of the female partner only, as there is a tendency for children to stay with the mother following the break-up of a partnership. These demographic trends suggest that increasing numbers of children grow up in families that do not fit the traditional pattern of two parents with their biological children. This increase of father-absent and stepfather families should be considered alongside the increase of mothers in employment - one of the most dominant and persisting trends in European labour markets, which has also raised questions about the role of fathers. Recent results from the European Labour Force Survey in EU15 showed that among households with two people of working age those with both partners in the labour force were almost twice as numerous in 2000 as those with only one, averaging around 62% in total (Franco & Winqvist, 2002). The UK has experienced a steady increase in the proportion of married women engaged in wage labour, from a figure of 26% in 1951 to 71% in 1991 and, more recently, of married women with a preschool child from 27% in 1973 to 52% in 1994 (Walby, 1997). As a consequence, households supported by a single male earner are now a minority, comprising in 1991 34% of all two-adult households below retirement age, with the contribution of men to overall family income falling from nearly 73% in 1979-81 to 61% in 1989-91 and that of women rising from 15% to nearly 21% (Creighton, 1999). In the USA the proportion of married women engaged in wage labour with preschool children rose from 12% in 1950 to two-thirds in 1997 (Cabrera et al., 2000). Only about one-quarter of children in the USA live in two-parent families supported by a single male earner (Cabrera et al., 2000). Generally over the past two decades, women's economic activity rates increased in all United Nations regions except sub-Saharan Africa, the transition economies of eastern Europe and central Asia, and Oceania. The largest increase occurred in South America, where rates rose from 26% to 45% between 1980 and 1997. The lowest rates were found in northern Africa and western Asia, where less than one-third of women were economically active (United Nations, 2000).
However, recent evidence seems to suggest the relatively slow pace of change in men's contribution to domestic labour, and child care in particular, relative to women's increased participation in the workforce. Sandberg and Hofferth (2001) showed that in the USA children's mean weekly time with fathers increased only marginally between 1981 and 1997, although it increased significantly in families in which mothers were working, and that time with mothers in two-parent families generally increased over the period regardless of whether mothers were working. Sandberg and Hofferth's (2001) conclusion was that assertions that children spend less time with parents today than several decades ago because of changes in maternal labour market behaviour and in patterns of family formation and dissolution were largely unfounded. Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean and Hofferth (2003) showed that on weekdays, fathers' earnings and work hours had a significant negative effect on their involvement with a child, but mothers' work hours or earnings did not have an effect on mothers' involvement, which suggests that despite women's increasing role in the labour market, most mothers remain the primary caregivers of young children on weekdays.
In fact, the very long work hours of women and men with children in some EU countries - for example, 1995 data showed that, of all the EU15 men and women with children under age 17, UK fathers and Greek mothers worked the longest hours at 46.9 and 39.5 hours per week on average, respectively, which mirrors the US averages of 50 and 41 hours (Polatnik, 2000) - added impetus to EU policies aimed to reconcile work and family, and reduce working hours. As two recent Equal Opportunities Commission reports suggest, policies such as parental leave, the promotion of 'family friendly' workplaces, and an attack on the long-hours culture are important as catalysts for an 'active fatherhood' debate and for changing expectations (Hatten, Vinter & Williams, 2002; O'Brien & Shemilt, 2003). The Council Directive 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996 on the framework agreement on parental leave guarantees men and women workers in the European Union the right to a minimum of three months' leave on the birth of a child or on the adoption of a child. Employees are protected against dismissal when applying for or taking parental leave. After the leave, they are entitled to return to the same job, or if that is not possible, to an equivalent or similar job. In addition, employees are entitled to time off for urgent family reasons. Although all EU15 countries offer at least 14 weeks' paid maternity leave, parental leave policies are poorly developed in most EU member states, reflecting little interest in fathers' care of young children, and therefore in bringing about equal employment opportunity for women. Furthermore, parental leave provisions differ widely between member states. Within the European Union Sweden has the oldest, most generous and flexible parental leave programme, aimed at both parents and designed to promote equal share of breadwinning and childcare responsibilities. Parents are entitled to share 450 days of paid leave at the birth or adoption of a child. Thirteen months of this leave are paid at 80% of salary up to a certain income level (circa $45 000) with the remaining three months paid at a low flat rate (circa $13 a day). Leave can be taken any time before the child completes the first year of school, and there are no restrictions on how often parents can take turns at taking leave. In 2001 the majority (74%) of all children aged 1 to 6 were in publicly subsidised childcare, and the majority (75%) of mothers with preschool-aged children were in the labour force (Haas, 2003). It is no coincidence that in the three EU15 states with the lowest (40%) women's overall labour force participation (Greece, Italy and Spain) fathers do not take leave in normal circumstances either because parental leave is unpaid (Spain), or not guaranteed in companies of less than 50 employees (Greece), or because it is not an individual nontransferable right (Italy). These three nations also score the lowest of all EU15 states on a composite index measuring women's equal employment opportunities (based on gender differences in employment rates, women's share of higher job positions, the gender wage gap, the proportion of women with low incomes, and the male-female gap in unpaid time spent on caring for children and other persons) (Haas, 2003). Yet, even in Sweden mothers take as much as 85% of all parental leave, with many fathers reluctant to use their 'papa months'. Furthermore, despite the fact that Sweden has one of the world's highest rates of female participation in the labour force, women's wages still lag behind men's, and only two out of 282 listed companies have female chief executives (The Economist, 2004). Other developed countries are far worse. By the average basic statutory paid leave for developed and developing nations of 16 weeks (Allen, 2003), the United States, New Zealand and Australia, for instance, stand out as having particularly minimal legislation. Until 1993, the United States was one of the few industrialised countries without any maternity leave legislation. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that was passed in that year provided the right to a short (12-week) unpaid parental leave for workers who meet qualifying conditions (that is, those who work in companies of at least 50 employees and have worked at least 1250 hours in the prior year). Australia does not allow for any paid maternity or parental leave. New Zealand introduced paid maternity leave as recently as 2002, but still does not allow for any paid parental leave.
CROSS-CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: FATHERS ACROSS COUNTRIES
Despite these demographic changes and policy differences, however, fatherhood research has only recently integrated developmental, ethnographic and demographic approaches to fathering. In Britain, for instance, the first demographic analysis of fatherhood took place in the mid-1990s (Burghes, Clarke & Cronin, 1997) using evidence from the British Household Panel Study (BHPS), the first nationally representative survey to ask men about fertility histories. Therefore, who fathers are (or, for the purposes of family policy-makers, who 'high-risk' fathers are) differs widely across Western countries. Recent demographic analyses comparing fatherhood between Britain and the United States have shown that young fatherhood was more common in the USA, especially among Black men, with 34% of men in Britain having their first child before age 25, compared to 41% of White fathers, 47% of Hispanic fathers and 61% of Black fathers in the USA, and with 54% of Black American fathers being co-resident with all their children compared to 76% of Hispanic Americans, 79% of White Americans and 85% of British fathers (see Clarke & O'Brien, 2004, for a review). In addition, what fathers do with their children is sometimes culturally prescribed and might not be in line with the empirical findings from the British, American or Australian studies with predominantly White middle-class samples in two-parent families which dominate the English literature. For example, although the father's role is recognised in all cultures, in Botswana the male kin who plays this role is the mother's brother (Townsend, 2002). Furthermore, although differences between paternal and maternal styles (with fathers being notably more playful than mothers) have been found in France, Italy, Switzerland, India, as well as in African-American and Hispanic-American households, Taiwanese, Aka, German and Swedish fathers, as well as men on Israeli kibbutzim, are not more playful than mothers (Lewis & Lamb, 2003). Significant cultural variability has also been documented in studies measuring the extent of the father-child interaction in Western countries even since infancy. Lamb (2002) summarised the evidence from earlier studies on father quantity of involvement in several countries. It seems that Swedish fathers in dual-earner families are probably most highly involved, spending an average of 10.5 hours per workday and 7.5 hours per non-workday with their infants, almost as much as the mothers do. Earlier studies showed that Israeli fathers spend 2.75 hours, British fathers spend less time with their infants than Israeli or Irish fathers, but German and Italian fathers spend a lot less than British, Israeli or Irish fathers. American fathers have been reported in some studies to spend around 3 hours per day interacting with their infants, and in others to spend around 15 to 20 minutes (Lamb, 2002). So far the highest degree of father involvement in any human society is found among the Aka pygmies, a hunter-gatherer people in the Central African Republic who were found to be present with an infant or child for 88% of the time, and to be holding an infant for 22% of the time (Hewlett, 1987). In the UK, Matheson and Summerfield (2001) showed that in households with children men reported spending around three-quarters of an hour a day caring for and playing with their children - just under half the amount reported by women. Using data collected in 1986 on the time that Japanese and American fathers spent with children aged 10 to 15, Ishii-Kuntz (1994) showed that American fathers were directly engaged for 1 hour on weekdays and 2 hours on Sundays with sons and for 0.5 hour on weekdays and 1.4 hours on Sundays with daughters. More recently Yeung et al. (2003) showed that biological fathers in the United States spend on average 1 hour and 13 minutes on a typical workday and 2 hours and 29 minutes on a weekend day in direct engagement with their children in intact families. The corresponding estimates were 5 hours and 21 minutes for children who live only with their biological mothers (with or without a stepfather), 1 hour 4 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes for children who live only with their biological fathers (with or without stepmother), and 9 hours and 28 minutes for those who do not live with either biological parent. American studies consistently show, however, that most of the time men spend with their children is in the form of 'interactive activities', such as play or helping with homework (Yeung et al., 2003), with the division of labour in childcare responsibilities being far from egalitarian. Lee, Vernon-Feagans, Vazquez and Kolak (2003) argued that a reason for this might be simply that fathers underestimate mothers' involvement in caregiving tasks (in their study fathers' and mothers' estimates of fathers' involvement were almost identical, but fathers' ratings of mothers' involvement were significantly lower than mothers' ratings of their own involvement). Finally, what fathers should do with their children has resulted in significant differences in the family policy agendas between Western countries. For instance, the British family policy on fatherhood occupies an intermediate position between the American 'father involvement' agenda, criticised as an attempt to reinstate male dominance by restoring the dominance of the traditional nuclear family with its contrasting masculine and feminine gender roles (Silverstein & Auerbach, 1999), and the European 'gender equity' agenda (Clarke & O'Brien, 2004).
Excerpted from Fathering and Child Outcomes by Elrini Flouri Excerpted by permission.
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|Ch. 1||Fathering : a changing perspective||1|
|Ch. 2||Factors associated with father involvement in two-parent families||20|
|Ch. 3||Father involvement and children's mental health outcomes||53|
|Ch. 4||Father involvement and children's educational outcomes||83|
|Ch. 5||Father involvement and children's aggressive behaviour||99|
|Ch. 6||Father involvement and children's quality of relationships||112|
|Ch. 7||Father involvement and children's socio-economic outcomes||126|
|Ch. 8||Non-resident fathers' parenting : determinants and children's psychological outcomes||153|