Pew Research: Fathers More Involved, See Fatherhood as Central to Their Identity

June 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Prior to Father’s Day, some of the commentary consisted of the usual denigration of fathers that’s long been a regular part of the day that’s supposed to honor them.  But most of the media and pop cultural treatment of fathers was positive.

This Pew Research article was nothing more than a recital of the current data on fathers and their effort to do both paid work and childcare.  I suppose that, if those data had cast doubt on fathers’ commitment, competency, etc., then the article would have reflected same.  But, since the information is essentially uniformly good news, the article joined many others that reflect positively on dads.

The piece makes eight points.  1. More fathers are stay-at-home parents than before.  2. Fathers have come to see parenting as central to their identity.  3. Finding a suitable balance between work and family is hard.  4. Most Americans think fathers face a lot of pressure to provide income for their families.  5. Being the family’s sole breadwinner is less common for fathers now than previously.  6. Fathers are more involved in childcare than before.  7.  Fathers and mothers are viewed differently when it comes to childcare.  8. Although they’re doing more childcare, many fathers think they still do too little.

I won’t dwell on each point, but one thing they indicate generally is that We the People tend to be smarter and more accurate in our assessments of fathers, mothers and kids than the various elite policy-makers/pushers who dominate the news.

So, as to #2 above, Pew researchers Gretchen Livingston and Kim Parker have this to say:

Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Some 57% of fathers said this in a 2015 survey by the Center, compared with 58% of mothers. Like moms, many dads also seem to appreciate the benefits of parenthood: 54% reported that parenting is rewarding all of the time, as did 52% of moms. Meanwhile, 46% of fathers and 41% of mothers said they find parenting enjoyable all of the time.

I call that an extremely important fact.  As long as fathers saw their role as secondary to Mom’s, they might be counted on to accept whatever parenting time a divorce court might give them when the two adults split up.  But fathers who see parenting as a big part of their identity are more likely to demand more of the divorce process.  They often won’t succeed, but the more of them who try, the more will succeed and the more courts will come to understand their point of view, i.e. that kids need meaningful relationships with both parents.

As to #4,

About three-fourths of adults (76%) said in a 2017 survey that men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially, while 49% said men face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent. In contrast, 77% said women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent, and 40% said women face a lot of pressure to support their family financially.

That’s a pretty accurate assessment of the status quo faced by fathers and mothers.  And, as I mentioned above, it’s a lot more accurate than what we so often read and hear in the MSM.  That has a way of attending solely to the trials and tribulations faced by mothers and rarely those of fathers.  The usual narrative urges us to believe that, because fathers do less domestic work than mothers, they’re laggards and mothers are long-suffering saints.  The reality is different.  Both mothers and fathers face the same challenges, but deal with them in different ways.  Those different ways tend to match their preferences (cited by Robert Verbruggen and discussed in my previous posts) and complement each other.

As to #6,

In 2016, fathers reported spending an average of eight hours a week on child care – about triple the time they provided in 1965. And fathers put in about 10 hours a week on household chores in 2016, up from four hours in 1965. By comparison, mothers spent an average of about 14 hours a week on child care and 18 hours a week on housework in 2016.

So fathers are doing substantially more childcare and domestic chores than before, but still not as much as mothers.  Again, those data reflect the preferences of mothers and fathers.  As Verbruggen made clear, mothers tend strongly to want to care for their children and fathers tend to want to provide for their families.  And all of that reflects age-old sex roles that decades of effort by feminists and various and sundry others hasn’t much changed.

The Pew data are well worth attending to.  The reality of fathers far outstrips their depiction in the mainstream media and pop culture.  As usual, the facts are more interesting and revealing than are the fantasies cooked up by those who continue to want to cast aspersions on fathers.  That, fortunately, is a tide that’s ebbing.

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