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Do fathers spend more time with their children than they used to?

Changes in parental care dynamics

Tomás Cano, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and Universitat Pompeu Fabra

The research on which this article is based analysed time trends in care given by fathers and mothers, comparing economic boom years (2002) with economic recession years (2010). The results show that in comparison with 2002, in 2010 there was a notable increase in the time mothers and – even more so – fathers devoted to their children. The narrowing of the gender gap in childcare was most notable among parents with children under three years of age. However, the gender gap in care is still open.
Key points
  • 1
       Men tend to ask for shorter periods off work to look after their children than women do: in 2018, only 13.1% of men requested leave of more than six months, whereas half of women took off more than that time.
  • 2
       During the economic crisis that began in 2008, there was an increase in the time parents spent looking after their children, both physically (men 13 minutes more on average; women 4 minutes more) and educationally (men 7 minutes more on average; women 9 minutes more). This increase is in relation to 2002.
  • 3
       The gender gap in physical childcare narrowed during the economic crisis, especially among parents who were unemployed during the recession. Whereas before the crisis unemployed mothers looked after their children one hour more per day than their male counterparts, during the crisis the difference was only half an hour on average.
  • 4
       The narrowing of the gender gap in physical childcare was most notable among parents with children under three years of age. At these ages (0-3), fathers increased by 30% the average time they spent on the physical care of their children, whereas mothers reduced it slightly.
  • 5
       Most of the increase in fathers’ childcare time (between 58% and 62%) is attributed to changes in their characteristics, i.e., having a higher educational level and being more affected by unemployment. The remaining 38-42% can be attributed to changes in men’s behaviour and attitudes towards childcare.
What are the reasons for the increase in the time men spend on childcare?
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