Summary of UK and international research on fatherhood and leave entitlements

18 October 2005

Paternal involvement

  • 23% of British fathers spend more than 28+ hours with their children a week compared with Germany – 16%, France – 10%, Greece – 4% and Denmark – 41 %.

Source: Who Cares? Fathers and the Time They Spend Looking After Children Alison J. Smith, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Sociology Working Papers, 2005

  • UK fathers do a third of parental childcare, an average of two hours per day, an eight fold increase in time spent with young children compared with 30 years ago

Source: EOC, Fathers: Balancing work and home, 2004

Fathers as carers (UK) 

  • Three quarters of the mothers (77%) surveyed felt that their partner was as confident as they are at caring
  • Almost nine in ten new fathers (87%) feel as confident as their partners at caring.

Source: EOC Dads and their babies: leave arrangements in the first year, 2005

Desire for father involvement (UK) 

  • Nearly half of all new mothers (48%) say they would like their partner to be more involved in the care of the children than they currently are. 
  • Over two thirds of all new fathers (70%) say they would like to be more involved in the care of the children than they currently are.

Source: EOC Dads and their babies: leave arrangements in the first year, 2005

Changing attitudes about roles (UK) 

  • Over three in five new mothers (62%) and almost the same percentage (58%) of all new fathers reject the idea that a dad’s main role is being that of a breadwinner

Source: EOC Dads and their babies: leave arrangements in the first year, 2005

Support for transferable leave (UK)

  • Nearly eight in ten mothers support the option of transferring some of their maternity leave to their partner
  • Over eight in ten fathers support this policy

Source: EOC Dads and their babies: leave arrangements in the first year, 2005

Take-up of paternity leave (UK) 

  • 94% of all new fathers take some time off after the birth to care for their children

Source: EOC 2005 

  • 17% of fathers taking paternity leave do so at the statutory rates of £106 per week. (Many employers top up the rate. Many fathers also take holiday leave because the statutory rate is not well enough paid.) 

Source: EOC Dads and their babies: leave arrangements in the first year, 2005

How sensitive are fathers to babies and children? (International evidence) 

  • There is no obvious difference between men’s and women’s patterns of arousal in response to their newborn babies. Researchers have compared such things as increase of heart rate, blood pressure and skin conductance when men and women are confronted with a crying or smiling baby. Two independent teams explored the physiological reactions of men and women to babies’ cries in the 1970s. Berman (1980) studied the arousal patterns in men and women when they were confronted with a crying or smiling baby measuring such things as increase of heart rate , blood pressure and skin conductance. Men and women showed similar responses. Similar data were obtained in a joint Swedish-USA project by Michael Lamb and Anne Frodi.

Source : This work was reviewed in M.E. Lamb (Ed) (1997) The Role of the Father in Child Development (3rd Edition) New York: Wiley. 

  • Fathers are as sensitive and responsive to their young children as mothers are. For example when fathers feed their young babies they respond appropriately when the baby wants to pause or needs to splutter after taking too much milk. They also manage to get as much milk into the baby as mothers do

Source: Parke, R.D. (1981) Fathering. London: Collins; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Also reviewed in What Good Are Dads? Charlie Lewis, NFPI et al. 2001 

  • Fathers and mothers give their babies similar amounts of affection. Studies have also found that there is very little difference between mothers and fathers with respect to the amount of affection and responsiveness they show to their young children.

Source: Schaffer, H. R. (1996) Social Development. Oxford. Blackwell, reviewed in What Good Are Dads? Charlie Lewis, NFPI et al. 2001 

  • Over 100 studies have compared the ways in which 1-2 year olds relate to mothers and fathers as “attachment” figures (Lewis,1982; Bentley & Fox, 1991). These show that the closeness of father and baby is usually very similar to that of mother and baby. This is surprising given that most fathers see little of their babies because they tend to work very long hours and it says a lot about the baby’s ability to form attachments. Schaffer (see above) considers the factors that influence babies’ choice of attachment figures and suggests there are two important considerations: 1.The quality of the interaction is important. Individuals who provide fun and playful stimulation are sought after and missed by the young child. Fathers often fit this category. 2. The baby becomes attached to the people who respond sensitively.

Source: What Good Are Dads? Charlie Lewis, NFPI et al. 2001

Provision of statutory leave entitlements in selected countries

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Leave entitlements in selected countries

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