Why should we care about locked down dads?

14 May 2020
Daddy's Home line drawing

Adrienne Burgess writes…

Reflecting on the process of industrialisation in Britain from the mid-nineteenth century, the historical demographer Peter Laslett wrote: “The most important of all the effects on the family group of the process of modernisation has undoubtedly been the physical removal from the household of the father and other earners for all of every working day . . .”[1]

Now, after more than a century-and-a-half of exile-for-breadwinning, in many families working fathers in Britain are returning home.  This reverse-migration, occasioned by Covid-19 quarantine, offers a unique opportunity (a natural experiment) to explore fathers’/father figures’ circumstances, experiences and aspirations in relation to work and caretaking; and to reflect on relationships with children and gender roles in their families. 

Where working from home is an aspect of this natural experiment, this will be of particular interest:  working from home typically gives an employee greater control over when, where, how much, or how continuously work is done, and when applied on a wide scale may result in a new way of thinking for both employers and employees. It has been said[2] that it can be “easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting”. 

Much has been, and will be, written about the Covid-19 virus’ differential impacts on women and men; this short article from the European Institute for Gender Equality sets out some key themes.

We very much welcome the opportunity to contribute to such debates by exploring fathers’ experiences of ‘returning home’, through our Nuffield Foundation-funded collaboration with Britain Thinks.

To make sure you receive our findings as soon as they are published (in June 2020), add yourself to our mailing list here.


[1] Laslett, P. (1977) Family Life and illicit Love in Earlier Generations. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press

[2] Attributed to a number of experts!

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